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I've becoming something of the go-to eulogist around my hood. Don't dig it. Too bad.

This is likely the hardest I shall have to write. Not because the departed and I were all that close, but because the departed did not particularly wish to be eulogized, or even known to depart.

Still, I feel the nature of the departure holds some profound lessons for those of us who remain. And so I selfishly type this small remembrance. It will necessarily be grammatically clunky and difficult, because to come close to honoring the departed's wishes, I have to remove all identifying marks, even gender-specific pronouns. I ask your indulgence.

N (not even a real initial; a pseudonitial, if you will) lived in our neighborhood. A medical professional, N likely knew the implications when curious lumps and bumps began appearing, but declined to get tested and confirm their meaning. N, like many, was not the happiest person, and perhaps felt what was happening was a way to get off the bus without actually jumping, with the ethical baggage that brings. Still, though N didn't precisely jump, N certainly leaned out. On tiptoe.

N's cancer was ravenous and blindingly fast. By the time it was even acknowledged as cancer, it was CANCER. It was never really acknowledged to anyone but N, though. Not to the neighbors, not to friends or co-workers. It was only through the vehement protests of the few who did know that N even allowed parents--even N's own adult child--to know, and not until it was nearly hospice time.

The end was quick and ugly. N refused to allow anyone access to the hospice and died militantly alone.

It is a circumstance of which I've never heard the like, and one which I could never inflict on those who care for me. N's behavior was, by every yardstick I've ever held, wrong.

And right, as in within N's rights. Damn few of us choose how we live and even fewer how we die. N did, and chose to die alone, leaving loved ones shattered not only by the departure, but by N's insistence that the trip was N's alone. No passengers allowed.

And so, despite what I presume N would wish, I must salute this choice I find so wrong, so cruel, even. Because it is the choice of a free individual, the last one available. N's actions embody a principle we all lip-serve, but sometimes deny when the implications cut too close: a person's life, even to the manner of its end, is that person's own to make.

Though I don't think I'll ever understand or agree with the choices N made, I hope that I would fight to the death to defend N's right to make them.

N did, after all.

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