Kicking The Can on Kicking The Bucket

“Kick The Can (Down The Road)”

English Idiom

  • to postpone or defer a definitive action, decision, or solution

“Kick The Bucket”

English Idiom

  • to die, pass away, stop living


It would be perfectly reasonable and understandable if anyone read my July 6th post — Now With 100% More Howard! — and concluded that my battle with ALS was drawing to a close, and that I’d be kicking the proverbial bucket very soon.

After all, there was that whole bit I wrote about those scenes in the Australian TV show I’d watched, wherein a man, dying from a particularly painful lung cancer, chooses to end his suffering by morphine overdose directly after a huge, joyous birthday party that had been thrown for him. And, as I explained, after watching him — still basking in the glow of that love-infused celebration — drink down the morphine in a state of deep peace and acceptance, in the arms of his wife, my immediate epiphanous thought was:

THAT is what I want!

Had I also mentioned explicitly what some of you already know, that my 57th birthday, a birthday I had been confident I would not live to see, was relatively right around the corner, on August 28th, I’m pretty sure most everyone reading that post would have concluded that I’d be passing on the 28th.

As it turns out, for about two weeks, that indeed was the plan.


I could go into the details as to what went down during those two weeks, I could recap the numerous emotional discussions with loved ones that took place, I could pontificate on what I’ve already pontificated on here on this website, i.e. the bizarre, surreal, confusing process of attending to the logistics of planning one’s own death, but rather, it feels a LOT easier and much more desirable to sum up my decision to kick the can on kicking the bucket with one succinct statement:

It was just a TV show!!!

The problem was, I/we could not come up with a single version of the Birthday-Deathday plan that wouldn’t have had the potential to actually make my passing more painful for someone, or some subset of friends/family, than it was naturally going to be by default. And so, several attempts at weighing the Pros & Cons always led to the same conclusion: Do we really want to risk that when…

…it was just a TV show?!!

The Line In The Sand Revisited

I also wrote this in my July 6th post:

“For nearly three years now, I’ve had in mind an imaginary line in the sand, demarcating the point at which the level of disability I reach will render my life unbearable.”

I explained further that this unbearable level of disability would be at the point where I’d always need another human being at-hand to move my body around from room to room, from wheelchair to toilet/bed and vice versa, BUT…I didn’t specify just how close I was getting to that milestone.

I did mention an incident back in February that previewed this state of being for me, confirming it would be unbearable, but I didn’t add that even with the riser we had installed, a device that temporarily restored my ability to get off the toilet independently, five months later I’m getting close to the point where even that adaptation will be insufficient. Additionally, I’m very nearly unable to stand up independently from the overstuffed armchair that I spend the bulk of my waking hours sitting in.

Now, an important opportunity to extol a particular virtue of Death With Dignity, aka Physician-Assisted Dying, laws.

It is written into the law here in Washington State that once an individual goes through the mandated assessment process and is determined eligible, they are to be reminded on numerous occasions that they can change their mind at any time. I was even given the additional information that a not-insignificant percentage of people who are declared eligible, and who are then prescribed and subsequently obtain the lethal medication from the pharmacy, actually don’t end up taking the meds for a variety of reasons.

The value of this careful preservation of freedom of choice cannot be overstated, especially given that those opposed to Physician-Assisted Dying often state, as at least one objection, their belief that these laws can be abused and individuals somehow coerced into ending their lives, despite there being no evidence of such abuse.

Anyway, I partially credit this very mechanism in the law for my having reached the awareness just this past week that there are additional assistive devices available that could prolong my precious ability to independently transfer my body from armchair-to-wheelchair-to-toilet-to-wheelchair-to-armchair for a while longer, until, that is, I am completely paralyzed, and just because I’d decided at one point to end my life on my birthday didn’t mean it was an irrevocable decision.

Back To The Can…

So, I’ve kicked it down the road, not sure just how far, and, truth is, I think it rolled into a ditch or was flattened by a semi truck, because I can see no trace of it and I’ve given up the search for now.

Meanwhile, invitations to the birthday party are being sent out, and I’ve successfully reverted to my default One Day At A Time settings.

So, let’s just see how long we can keep kicking that can!

Shall we?

12 thoughts on “Kicking The Can on Kicking The Bucket

  1. I will wish you a wonderful birthday on the 28th and think of you! You are a brave man and a great inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Susan! Hope your move went well! 🙏🏼✌🏼


  2. Howard, thanks for sharing your journey. I’m glad you’re kicking the can down the road, and I am also glad we have the Death with Dignity Act in our state so it’s a choice. I hope you have a great 57th birthday, and hope to read of plans for your 58th in the coming year.

    Take care,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Dan. 🙏🏼✌🏼


  3. I just wrote you a long comment , which I then lost somehow☹️, so I will try and summarize it here…
    As a not so gifted writer, I struggle with capturing my thoughts but I want to thank you for your words and insights and musings. Long an advocate for individuals getting to choose how they leave this world, when possible, I have learned through your writing, that beauty is definitely in the eye/heart of the beholder, and that I can’t know now what I would decide once I cannot do the things that have always given me joy. You have been open and found so much more to love and be inspired by each day, I hope I can do the same if I find myself heading down a path not of my choosing. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Martha, thanks so much for your kind words. Knowing you as I do, I know you share my love of getting physical in the great outdoors, so yes, it’s hard to not be able to do that anymore, and that part never gets easier. But, there are obviously some things quite worth sticking around for, and for now that’s what I’m doing. Please say hi to Dan and Hayden for me. 🙏🏼🧡


  4. June Fraser Thistle July 31, 2021 — 9:30 am

    As I read there is an ache inside of me, for you. It’s a mixture of anger they haven’t come up with a cure, amazement at how your sense of humor always bubbles to the top, and also wonder at how you weigh life from all angles. There is control in having this magic potion and I love your idea to continue kicking the can until you decide you are too tired. You are truly amazing, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. June! I miss you so much. I was just recently up on campus for the first time since my retirement, I was showing my sister around the empty place one night before dark, and I was overwhelmed with memories. I always felt privileged to work there, and I treasure that I got to work with amazing people like you! 🙏🏼🧡


  5. I wish you a joyous Birthday celebration Howard! You are in my thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, um, ‘Someone!’ 😉😊


  6. Lori Jo Erlichman August 4, 2021 — 4:07 pm

    I’m so glad you are still “kicking”! Each time I leave town and come back to see an Owl in my inbox I breath a bit more deeply and am glad you can still look at you social media and delight in the people who love you. We do love you. Very much. When you do make a decision to choose your own time for death I will be glad that your suffering is over and rejoice that you had the choice.

    Liked by 1 person

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