I recently returned from my biker pilgrimage to the holy city of the Hajj aka Sturgis, South Dakota, the trip every biker must make once in his lifetime. You are required to walk three times around the Full Throttle Saloon, throw stones at the devil, buy a tank top t-shirt and watch overweight Midwestern women flash their boobs before they go home in September to teach their preschool class. I then rolled back across America to the Mile High City.
I purchased a new CVO Streetglide Harley Davidson and it’s equipped with, that’s right technology geeks, an iPod and six speakers. Trust me folks, out of Lusk, Wyoming, going 120 miles an hour, you can hear this baby blasting like it was right next to you in your bedroom.
I don’t pretend to understand technology but if you press a certain button a song will repeat until you hit the button to change tunes. My daughter Shannon and her fiancé Doug Bohm picked my music for me and so from Lead, South Dakota, to almost Lusk, Wyo., I listened to the 18-minute version of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Seasons Don’t Fear The Reaper.” As you can see, years of drugs and alcohol abuse will never damage the music portion of a man’s brain.
Riding with new ink, a pierced ear and a travel bag full of t-shirts, you’ve got plenty of time to think. Remember who travels fast, travels alone. I rode back this time all by myself and I loved it. Other than the antelopes and Angus cattle, there’s jack between Newcastle to Torrington, Wyoming. But the sun is now on another angle, fall is in the air, there are big wheels of hay in the fields, you’ve got to wear all of your leather, heavy gloves and scarves and feel the seasons change.
So I always ask myself, “How many more of these do you got in you?” How many Christmases, birthdays, radio shows, newspaper columns? The tide is high. Stuff ain’t getting any better — from here it’s only gonna get worse. So you start thinking about life and I came back to a remarkably sad story that really got me thinking. Whose life is this anyway? And who owns your life?
That story is about John Wise of Cleveland, Ohio — he was married 45 years to his wife Barbara. By all accounts from the people who knew them they were inseparable and loved each other very much. Barbara had a massive stroke and John went into her hospital room and sat next to her and fired a single round into her head and then sat there and waited for the police.
Mercy or murder? That’s what the headline asked. What is the punishment when you murder someone you love to end their suffering? The papers carried some other accounts: A New York man in the spring suffocated his elderly mother and then cut his own wrists. He told the police that he had cancer and believed that he was going to die also and believed that no one would care for his mother. He got six months. A story out of Washington State — another fellow shot his wife. She was terminally ill also and he told the cops that she pleaded with him to end her life. He’s out on bail.
Now that all of us boomers are becoming the elderly what should we do? When it comes to someone that loves you or someone you love — do they take your life or do you take theirs to end the agony and the suffering?
Now here comes the curve ball. I think reasonable people support the right for someone who is terminal to die. In many parts of the world those laws are already in place. But here’s the showstopper: What if that right becomes an obligation? Remember Colorado Governor Richard Lamm — the only governor seemingly in the last 30 years who didn’t have marital issues — and his “duty to die?” That, folks, was about healthcare money. Now comes national healthcare. You know that someone’s going to have to make the call on who gets the money to live and who doesn’t get the money and has to die.
Should a terminally ill person be allowed to die because they wish it, eliminating the kinds of things John Wise did? Or does a dying person have the right to hasten his or her death and get the help of doctors to do it? Or perhaps worse yet and more frightening and more Orwellian, the government makes the call.
Holland is one of the world’s most civil places. Euthanasia is legal there and for the past 10 years no doctor has been prosecuted for assisting a terminal person to commit suicide. But here’s the bizarre one: In 1990 there were 1,030 Dutch citizens killed without their consent. And of 22,500 deaths due to withdrawal of life support, 63 percent (14,175 patients) were denied medical treatment without their consent. Twelve percent (1,701 patients) were mentally competent but were not consulted. Do you think there’s any potential for abuse?
So, like with many things — I don’t have an answer. Now I’m a granddad to the most amazing little fellow — Liam Joseph Boyles. If it costs money to keep me alive then I’d rather have the money spent on his college education. As long as he doesn’t go to law school.
“Seasons don’t fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain”
Peter Boyles is a nationally acclaimed radio host who can be heard Monday through Friday on 630 KHOW 5 to 9 a.m. He has a monthly column in the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle. Visit Peter’s blog and comment on his column, or let him know anything else that’s on your mind, by going to the Chronicle Web site at www.glendalecherrycreek.com.