A reader recommends a film for the thread:
For an example of a good death, to my mind there’s no better example than that of Cody Curtis, the “star” of the 2011 HBO documentary How to Die in Oregon. To summarize briefly, Cody was diagnosed with untreatable liver cancer and given only months to live. Using Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act, she prepared to end her own life and set a date. But when that date approached, she realized that she felt pretty good and cancelled her plan. She lived through the summer and fall, relatively pain-free, but then her health began to fail rapidly. Her brave meditations throughout all this were a wonder to behold.
Everything progresses, even our thoughts about death.
Update from a reader:
The reader who references this film fails to note that although Ms. Curtis postponed her plan to end her life by several months, she ultimately did take her own life, as she originally intended.
This thread may be older than you realize. In Book I, chapters 30–32 of his Histories, Herodotus tells the story of King Croesus, the wealthy king of Sardis, and his meeting with Solon, the great lawgiver of Athens. Croesus, having entertained his guest richly, finally asked him who the famously wise man thought the happiest man in the world to be – assuming, of course, that the answer would be himself. Instead, Solon told him that the happiest man he knew of was one Tellos the Athenian, for he had lived in a well-run city-state, saw his sons grow up and have children of their own, and died well, to the mourning of his peers.
In fact, Solon refuses to call any man happy whose life has not yet ended. Only he who “dies with grace” is reckoned happy, since the most fortunate man is subject to the whims of fate whilst alive.