The last 7 months have been a little bizarre for our neighbor “Davey” (real name withheld for reasons which will become obvious). I’ve known Davey for the last 4 ½ years, meeting him right after moving into the neighborhood. Davey was a single guy, maybe in his 40’s, who lived in his modest home with his aging dog, and made his living as an independent contractor. He didn’t have a real “business” per se – he just did various construction and remodeling jobs through word-of-mouth, and it usually kept him fairly busy. Davey was originally from
About 7 months ago, while walking our dogs, Davey and I ran into each other. After I asked him how things were going, Davey replied that things were “terrible.” That was far different in both word and tone from his usual “Oh, you know, mate…doin’ ok…” So I asked what he meant, and he informed me that he’d recently been diagnosed with cancer. Apparently he’d had it for quite a while, and it had spread over a good portion of his organs. Davey never had any health insurance, and he told me that over the past couple of years he’d have spells of bad health, but then he’d get better, so he never bothered to go to a hospital or anything. But he divulged that over the past few months (prior to last October) things had gotten worse – he’d been in a lot of pain and such, so he finally decided to get checked out, and that’s when he got the bad news.
Even worse, his cancer was so far advanced that at that point they gave him about a month to live. I had no idea what to say to Davey – what could I say? I asked if there was anything I could do, etc. But Davey told me he’d come to terms with it; he knew what had to be done. He said there was no way he’d spend his last few weeks or whatever suffering alone in a hospital bed. When the time came, he said, he would just end it himself, in his own home. He said he’d make arrangements for someone to take his dog, and that he’d be sure the neighborhood kids were not around at the time.
I told him I respected his decision, and that I understood, and that how sorry I was. And then Davey decided to enlighten me on his chosen method of termination: a shotgun. I was aghast, and he could see it in my eyes. His reasoning was that it would be quick and painless, and there really was no room for error – hard to miss at point blank range with one of those. Apparently he’d been telling other neighbors the same thing, so that when it did happen, people would know what that loud noise was. This was not the time or place for me to try and talk him out of using that method, but I wanted to convince him to just overdose on sleeping pills or some other less messy way…but again, not my place to do so. He’d made up his mind, and I had to let that go.
We parted ways with him saying that he’d have a “farewell party” of sorts the night before shuffling off his mortal coil. So in a daze, I went home.
A month passed, then two. Davey had sold his truck and his sizeable television, and rarely walked his dog any more. We (the neighbors and I) thought Davey would do the deed during the December holidays, but he was still hanging around to see 2010. January passed, then February…his health issues were becoming much more visible – he’d lost a lot of weight and just looked ill. All this time Davey had been hinting to me and other neighbors that the end was coming soon – “This weekend will be it,” he said once in January. Then at some point in February he told me his party would probably be “next week.” But we continued to see him, and at the beginning of March he told his next-door neighbors to “take the kids away for a couple of hours,” implying that he was ready for the next life. The neighbors returned a few hours later, only to find Davey sitting on his front porch.
These events were now causing great moral conflict within us neighbors. On the one hand, we were glad the doctors had been wrong and he was sticking around much longer than expected. But on the other hand, it was not fair for him to keep telling people – especially his next-door neighbors with small kids - that he was about to end his life, and then not do it. But obviously no one could say anything to him – he’d do it when he was ready.
Well Davey’s readiness finally emerged a few nights ago. I left my house to walk the dog and saw three police cars in front of Davey’s house. I could see flashlights darting around through the windows, and an unmarked van was backed up into the driveway. An empty stretcher was on the front lawn. It looked like Davey had finally had enough. We spoke with some neighbors the next day, and apparently he did in fact go out the way he planned, shotgun and all, but no one had heard the blast. It may have been one of those things where you hear something at night, it wakes you up, but then you don’t hear anything else so you fall right back to sleep.
His other next-door neighbor had knocked on his door that morning and got no answer. She went back later that evening, and after getting no answer again, the police were called. Yesterday a cleaning crew was at the house, his furniture and carpet on the front porch.
And so ends the tale – and life – of Davey, a nice guy who lived a happy life, for the most part. The next beer I have at that bar will be for him.