A Personal Story
by Phyllis Shacter
In her intense, inspiring and very moving book, Phyllis Shacter writes about her husband Alan’s death by VSED – Voluntary Stopping Eating and Drinking
Both of them were meditators and had run a business together. When he started having dementia symptoms aged 68, he was well aware of its likely progression: as his mother had died of it as had Phyllis’ father. Alan had recovered from cancer using natural methods, but the dementia was progressing fast.
Looking at options that he might need in the future, the couple visited an expensive care facility near them and, although it was attractive and the staff caring, after seeing the later-stage Alzheimer’s patients, Alan was very clear “I’m not going there”. When he heard about VSED he said that’s how he wanted to end his life. While he still could, he held a ‘Ceremony of Life’ with music, singing and over 90 friends. Together they planned, prepared and carried out his wishes when they felt the time was right.
It wasn’t an easy thing for Phyllis, though Alan was steadfast in his commitment to VSED and she steadfast in her support. She exposes the rollercoaster of her emotional journey, detailing the practicalities as they evolved. This book is an account of the background and the journey from the beginning of VSED till Alan’s death and of Phyllis’s grief in the days and weeks following.
On one level this is a manual to help others who would like to follow the same path. Alan wanted this very much. It also includes a day-by-day log from one of the main caregivers, the supervising doctor, and brief accounts of how other people have used VSED as a way of choosing to die. There are also appendices full of resources.
In Phyllis’ last conversation with Alan, he affirms that meditation “has helped me not get caught up in the insanity that surrounds us all.”
Phyllis’ mission since Alan’s death has been to spread the word that this is a legal possibility for the end of life. Information about related events, conferences and interviews are available through her website: https://www.phyllisshacter.com/ The TED talk link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiYPaU3h3w8
The book is available on Amazon.