Susan and Carl Chase, an artist and a musician in Maine who chose when to end their lives
Nov 24, 2019
Boston Globe – In a letter dated two days before they sat in their favorite place in their Brooksville, Maine, home and gazed a final time at Horseshoe Cove, Susan and Carl Chase began with a single word: “Why?”
She was 75 and an artist, he was 77 and a musician, and both were much more — teachers and valued friends and good neighbors with lives long woven into their community.
Even though, as their children later wrote, the Chases’ final act was “a joint decision, organized thoroughly and talked about often,” not everyone knew, and no one knew when their last day would arrive.
“They surprised us all when they took their lives Oct. 27, 2019,” their two children wrote, adding that their mother and father were found “holding hands, fingers entwined peacefully.”
In their last letter, answering the “why” question their deaths would raise, Susan and Carl Chase gave thanks for lives well-lived, yet spoke unflinchingly about deteriorating health and the unappealing likelihood of failing further.
They also offered their blunt assessment of the world’s poor prospects, environmentally and politically.
“We have had full and happy lives, blessed with extraordinary good luck,” they wrote. “It is unreasonable at our age to assume it will continue that way and we want to leave while things are good, before our luck runs out, not after!”
Because the Chases were well-known, their deaths led to news coverage and discussions about their final act among mental health professionals, some of whom were interviewed by the Portland Press Herald.
The decision by many older adults to end their lives by suicide “is a major public health issue in many countries,” according to a 2018 article in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging … Read more.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS …
“Things are sure to get uglier and more violent … “
Letter from Carl and Susan
For anyone who wants to know.
This is an attempt to explain why we have decided to end our lives now. We believe it is a person’s fundamental right to choose whether or not to go on living when they approach the “end-game” of life, and for many reasons that time has come for us. We have come to this decision both independently and together. Here are some of the considerations that have led us to make this choice.
We have had full and happy lives, blessed with extraordinary good luck. It is unreasonable at our age to assume it will continue that way and we want to leave while things are still good, before our luck runs out, not after!
We have enjoyed generally good health until the last few years, when it has started to become clear that the body is wearing out. Where most people these days tackle every medical issue as it arises, we’ve chosen not to spend our last years in an escalating battle against our body’s failures, taking more and more pills, signing up for exhausting operations, waiting for the next issue to show up. Dying is natural, and inescapable. We see nothing good about stretching the process out over as many years as possible.
Dementia lurks for all of us and we are determined to escape that fate. We would hate to burden family, friends and each other with our care. Some might say that is what family and friends are for, but in the case of the elderly we heartily disagree, if there is a chance to avoid it. Too much time, energy, money and good will is squandered trying to eke out those last days, months and years.
We feel that we have made some small contributions to the communities in which we have lived, but they have – and will – become less and less. We dread becoming useless, using up more and more resources and attention, and contributing less and less in return. We feel that happening.
For myself (Carl) as things break down I can’t enjoy many of the things I like to do. My hearing – even with the best hearing aids – doesn’t let me follow conversations, movies, music, etc. – well enough to enjoy them. My failing knees ruled out skiing some years ago; now walking and getting in and out of boats are difficult. I have some other on-going medical issues which I’ve chosen to ignore rather than fight because an old age spent fighting losing battles is not a life I want.
And as for me (Susan)… the dementia on my maternal side (mom and grandmother) looms as a crouching demon from age 75 on. I do not want to lose my mind. I do not want to live in assisted living or a nursing home. And I do not want to use up the money doing so. I would rather it be shared and put to good use for the next generations. Physically I’m in good shape for 75, but I feel things going and have some nagging internal issues.
And then there’s this…
While it is always possible that things will turn around for the better for the human race here on earth, it is impossible to imagine that it could happen anytime soon – certainly not in any possible lifetime of ours. The pressure of over-population is bringing about the destruction of civilization, and will eventually cause the extinction of our species as we make the planet unfit for ourselves. This process is already well underway. As a consequence truth, decency and rule of law are disappearing daily right before our eyes, leaving no system or social structure capable of managing the mess. Things are sure to get uglier and more violent as “survival of the fittest” becomes the rule. It is hard to be cheerful when confronted by the daily news. We’ve seen more than enough of it already. We have no desire to be further witness to it.
In short, we want to conclude our lives on a high note while we still have the wits and capability to manage it. We’d like to think that we’ll be remembered as the persons we’ve been up till now, rather than gamble on what we may become over the next 10 – 20 years. In any case that is our choice!
Finally, we sincerely apologize to anyone we have inconvenienced or let down by our decision, its timing or the absence of any warning. There was no good way to schedule it without having to involve others. That was unthinkable. Although we are blessed with wonderful family and friends this was too personal to share with anyone. We appeal to you for understanding, and beg that you will help each other in picking up the pieces we inevitably leave behind. SOURCE.
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