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What is Dying with Dignity?

Updated on January 6, 2013

In the movie, Promise Land, Hal Holbrook (who is very old) is talking with Matt Damon about the problems of the town and reflects at his own life and mentions that he wants to die with dignity. It is a common phrase used by those who are usually closer to death in age or other condition. I recall my own dad mentioning it many times, " Well, at least he died with dignity, I hope I can". Having 40 years apart between his and my own age was all generational and problematic growing up and even when we were both adults. I really never gave it much thought nor understood the phrase.

With the passage of time, things your parents have said resonate with you by just about anything. The passage of time seems to clarify some statements. I think, dying with dignity generally means reaching retirement age (mid-60s) is good shape, health wise, and not having the need to work or look for work because you have sufficient funds month to month. It means, not belittling oneself when you are elderly and applying for a job from someone who can be your son, or worse, a grandson\daughter because you still need money despite the career you had. It means you have your health and can remain independent and in charge of your life in the last years, not dependent on others for care and can enjoy the remaining time you have and not worry about medical\money issues. It means that you do not have to beg or be homeless or receive county aid because you failed during the working years, to save, have an IRA and other retirement programs that can sustain you.

Ask any elderly person, dying with dignity does mean all of these things. In Promise Land, it is about an old man (Hal Holbrook), a former engineer and very educated and knowledgeable mentally, yet, his appearance convey's a simple, uneducated, farmer. The young man, 38 yr.old, Damon, is caught totally unaware by him, his knowledge about fracking.

Luckily, my dad did die with dignity, my mom, not so much.


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