Today, I'm attending the funeral of a 92 year old woman. Until a week and a half ago, when she went to the hospital, she had full independence. After the doctors had tested her, they said she had cancer. Eight days later, after saying goodbye to her children and grandchildren, she was dead.
I consider this to be a good death, as I have watched others endure painful battles with cancer for years, battles that could not be won. Yet the concept of a good death seems to be an oxymoron. How can we consider the end of a life to be a good thing?
May I suggest that the quality of a death is defined by the quality of the life it ends--the things that the living being is able to attend to before death, the amount of pain that attends life, the meaning that the life gives to its death, etc. Of course, life is to be preferred to death. Yet, in this world, we all must say goodbye for the last time, and the way we go about doing that is important.