On the Etiquette of Dying

I wrote this about a year ago as I was formulating my ideas on the existence of the soul, but it also goes into how to deal with end of life issues, at least as I have found them. The last 2 weeks I practically lived at MD Anderson getting scanned, getting my bones drilled into with a full size drill to get samples of my cancer, and then starting a new trial with a DNA repair blocker (my fourth trial cause none of them so far have done anything for my cancer and thus I am ruining their statistics and they kick me out of the protocol and search for a new one) I have a day and a half before I go back for another 3.5 days at that lovely fun place, MD Anderson. lol As an aside, I find a great opportunity for witnessing for the faith at that place. People pay attention down there cause dying focuses one’s mind on what is next after death.

Last week I was reminded of this ditty I wrote because I had on lady at dinner tell me to try a herbal remedy for cancer and diabetes, guaranteed to cure cancer, and a nurse told me to stop eating meat to get my ability to walk fully back. There seems to be no end to these ‘cures’ for everything that ails you. Anyway, with two modifications to update this, here is my view on the etiquette of dying.

On the Etiquette of dying.

Glenn R Morton

I am writing this knowing it will make no difference in anything because no one listens and changes their mind on anything anyway. I do this because it is cathartic for me. I do this because I have had one too many frustrating encounters with those who don’t have cancer. People seem not to know how to deal with someone with cancer.

I spent my life exploring for oil and learned to be blunt about facts–I either succeeded or failed, few gray areas. I had to have the bluntness in the face of a $200 million dry hole to tell my employers that I had just lost them that much money. That builds a thick skin. So what I will say will appear blunt to many. It is just my way of dealing with success and failure.

First I want to say something to the Cancer patient, then to those who are dealing with them. When you are told you have cancer you will go into a deep depression thinking all you have done is worthless. That will last a while, but pull yourself out of it and don’t play the victim card, the woe is me card with everyone. Doing that will drive everyone away from you. No one likes being around needy people, whose needs and problem simply can’t be fixed. Telling people all your problems, leaves them feeling helpless because there is precisely nothing they can do to really fix the situation–yes, they can adjust a pillow and get you a drink, but they can’t cure you. Both of you know that and it leaves the non-cancer patient feeling helpless, useless, guilty and bad all at the same time. Over time he will avoid you. To the cancer patient, be as friendly and positive minded as you can be–you are still alive to interact with your family and that is still a big gift. Whining about what you won’t have after you are dead is like whining about not being a billionaire; no one can help you get there. [note: there is an useful exception to not playing the woe is me card; it does get telephone solicitors off the phone quickly when you tell them about your disease]

If you are a Christian, believing in the afterlife, we are going to a better place. Go out of this world acting like you actually believe there is a heaven. To get incredibly desperate and try desperate remedies as you leave this world betrays a lack of faith; a lack of grace. Don’t grasp greedily at the quack cures and charlatan offers of weird diets to cure your cancer. Years ago a couple whose wife was dying of breast cancer (a cancer my wife had had), asked my scientific opinion on a cure they wanted to try. After listening to this guy’s tape saying how he could cure everything wrong with mankind, I told them what I thought of it. The man said, “So you wouldn’t let your wife get on it?” to which I replied. I would tell her what I thought of it if she asked, and take her there if she wanted to try it. I don’t believe in crushing hopes of the dying even if I think it is misplaced hope. The couple tried it and it didn’t work. Such cures never seem to work. More on that below.

It remains to be seen how desperate I will become, but I do believe deeply now after decades of doubt about Christianity, I now accept it with a firmness, and with some evidence. My atheist friends seem to dismiss the biggest scientific evidence that our mentality, our qualia, our spirit or soul, is somehow more important than the external world the philosophical materialist believes is all there is. I define the believer in philosophical materialism as this partial paraphrase of the internet definition gives : the doctrine that nothing exists except matter and its movements and modifications. Consciousness and human will are entirely caused by material agency (causation). This philosophy rules out God, gods, miracles, afterlife, souls etc. Yet the philosophy is disproven by one simple scientific fact that few note. Matter is subject to Soul, mind or whatever you want to call it. It isn’t consciousness that is caused by matter; it seems to be closer to the opposite. Steven Weinberg notes how science should work, as opposed to how quantum actually does work.

Fundamentally, I have an ideal of what a physical theory should be. It should be something that doesn’t refer in any specific way to human beings. It should be something from which everything else–including anything you can say systematically about chemistry, or biology, or human affairs–can be derived. It shouldn’t have human beings at the beginning in the laws of nature. And yet, I don’t see any way of formulating quantum mechanics without interpretative postulate that refers to what happens when people choose to measure one thing or another.” Scientific American July 2018, p. 32

If I set up my equipment to measure light energy passing by a galaxy 2 billion light years away, and thus two billion years ago, I can chose to see it as a particle (photon) that goes on one side or the other side of the galaxy, but not on both sides. The particle can only be in one place or the other when I observe it. All of its energy is in one place or the other. Or I can choose to see the light wave going on all sides of the galaxy at once. In this case, the energy is spread all around that galaxy. What I chose today impacts what happened 2 billion years ago to that piece of energy that was traveling past a galaxy which is acting as a gravitational lens to that energy. My mind, my soul, gets to decide how the energy I see reaching today behaved two billion years ago; either as a particle or as a wave but not both. The passage by the galaxy occurred long before there was any people or multicellular life on earth. Yet my decision today determines what I observe happened to that photon 2 billion years ago.

The same thing happens in every single quantum experiment ever made. The mind of the experimenter gets to choose what he sees. Matter is obeying consciousness. Matter at its most fundamental level is NOT master of consciousness; consciousness is master of the matter. I see no way to avoid the conclusion that my soul is more real than matter. So if you are a Christian, go out of this world like you actually believe that. Science seems to indicate that.

While this is not the main point of my article and I know the materialists will howl at me for the above, I felt it important to point out that philosophical materialists are on shakey scientific ground when dealing with Christians who are dying. One more quote on this topic

"The delayed choice experiment became possible thanks to the speed of computers which can choose randomly when to activate the detectors between the double slit and the screen. The result is that this choice effects the way in which the photon has gone through the slit (wave/particle), and that this effect operates backwards in time. The first two experiments which verified this model were performed independently in the 1980s in the University of Maryland and Munich, Germany. These experiments showed that the decision to activate the detectors affected the nature of photons backwards in time"

"Wheeler, noted that it is possible to devise a double slit experiment at the cosmic level using light coming from quasars and a galaxy which operates as a gravitational lens on the way to Earth. This light would generate an interference pattern showing that light has travelled as waves. But if a measurement would be performed before the screen on which the interference pattern takes form, the pattern would dissolve and the photons would change from waves into particles. In other words our choice on how to measure the light coming from a quasar influences the nature of the light (particle/quasar) emitted 10 billion years ago. According to Wheeler this experiment would show that retrocausal effects operate at the quantum level."Antonella Vannini e Ulisse Di Corpo, "Quantum Mechanics (QM), Syntropy 2007, 1, pag. 119-129 p. 127

Again, it is the human will/mind/soul that makes the choice. To the best of my knowledge no dog, cat mouse or tardigrade has ever performed a quantum experiment placing themselves into the role of the decider/observer. So those who claim they can be observers who collapse the quantum wavelet, are observationally wrong. I bolded an interesting point. Critics of Christianity have criticized the idea of original sin. Why would one man’s sin affect everyone. Well, retrocausality is a way for our sin to affect Adam and we all would be equally guilty participants in his decision. Given that some say consciousness involves quantum phenomena, one can’t rule this idea out based on an argument about us having a macro-sized brain.

So, materialists, don’t argue the point with me, take it up with these physicists. Tell them how wrong they are. Telling me won’t remove this important data point. Convincing those physicists of the errors of their ways might remove my argument for the soul’s importance to this universe.

So for the atheist, when you are dealing with Christian cancer patients, don’t try to steal their hope and turn them into as hopeless a being you are! That just seems cruel, mean and nasty. I have seen atheists pick at Christian’s faith as a Christian was dying as if their atheism were some sort of gospel of good news and that it was important for that person to know there is no afterlife before they die. If materialism is true, what is the point of doing that anyway. Nothing really matters in the long run if philosophical materialism is actually true. It matters not that we die, that a species dies, that wars happen, because it is all just matter behaving as matter behaves. Why rage against injustice? There is no intrinsic value of one piece of matter over another. How can matter be unjust to itself anyway? And it really doesn’t matter if some other piece of matter affirms your philosophy or not. What does an atheist accomplish by converting a dying Christian to atheism anyway? If materialism is true, it really isn’t important what our beliefs are.

Over the 16 years I have had this cancer so far, I have observed loads of things people should not do. These things come from people of all walks of life, from scientists of all philosophical persuasions to average joes of all walks of life. When I first was diagnosed, several scientists wrote me letters or emails telling me that if only I hadn’t eaten white bread, I wouldn’t have this cancer (I don’t eat white bread), or if I hadn’t eaten refined sugar(which I admittedly do). That is the blame the patient for his cancer approach to friendship. It is like telling your friend who has lung cancer today–If only you hadn’t smoked all those year. What good does that do for that guy? He can’t change the past. What the cancer patient is looking for is a way to solve the problem he has and a time machine doesn’t seem to be a workable solution. Such ‘helpful’ people just leave the cancer patient frustrated that the guy saying things like this doesn’t care to understand the problem the patient has today. It doesn’t do any good after drilling a dry oil well to say, ‘If only you hadn’t drilled there!’ On a lighter note, I do have a deep, perverse urge to tell everyone that my prostate cancer was caused by having sex with my wife three times a day for my entire life, and thus it is my fault for getting this disease. Let them chew on that for a while. lol

Then there are the cancer cures we are given, again by all walks of life and by all philosophical positions. My wife and I are in the process of moving and the event which caused this screed was the buyer’s realtor waltzed into my house, asked why we were selling and when we told her my cancer was getting out of control, she told me that I could cure my cancer if I ate a chocolate bar with Astaxanthin algae in it. She knows because she gives it to her Parkinson’s husband and she is a nurse. The previous week our house cleaner gave me a recipe for curing cancer that was a slurry of vegetables including superbeet, cilantro, potato, broccoli and other things. Guaranteed to cure my cancer. The week before that on my morning walk, a neighbor had told me about a guy who knew all the cancer doctors were out to prevent cures of cancer and he had a diet that actually cures cancer. They offered me his number and I think they thought I was a wee bit suicidal not to ask for that number. My dear wife tells me to accept these things with grace, and I do, but I don’t necessarily think gracious thoughts. I think about how fat and poor I would be if I ate every one of those diets, all of which are different and some come with a substantial monetary cost.

Years ago a geophysicist who worked for me got a cancer in his liver and every 6 months for about 2 years they would remove half his liver only to have the cancer come back. He got very desperate to live (and I don’t blame him, he was only 26 years old). We rode a bus each day to work and back and we sat together. What he did was get with a charlatan who charged him money and diagnosed him by looking at the iris of his eye to tell of his health and what fish he ought to eat. So Cliff ate fish. Smelly fish. I was never going to tell him that what he was doing wasn’t going to work. That is like the atheist trying to remove hope. Cliff was very hopeful about this fish diet/iris guru. I let him have his hope. But Cliff smelled like a fish for the last six months of his life. I have sworn for years, I will not smell like a fish as I go out of this world. Diet fads don’t cure cancer. Don’t tell your cancer friends about the latest internet diet craze.

An engineer I knew got desperate to live after the docs told him there was nothing more they could do. A friend got him onto a service that provides a cancer curing diet for a lot of money and my friend died about the time the docs said he would, lacking some money spent on that useless diet.

A scientist friend sent me articles on how Avocado extracts can slow the growth of my type of cancer, prostate cancer. The article doesn’t say where to get the extract or what the dose should be? Of what value is that to me? He sent similar articles claiming dewberry extract cures cancer; rosemary cures cancer; Kale cures cancer; pomegranate, green tea, broccoli and turmeric do the same. But each article again left me with no information on how to get the extract from each plant, how much to eat of it etc. They were useless and sadly I had to make the guy mad to get him to stop sending me stuff like that. Most of the experiments with these plants are done on men with lower grade tumors than I had, and tumors that were localized. Mine was a high grade tumor already spreading into my gut in 2003 which is why the doctor told me I wouldn’t likely live past 2005. So most of the studies didn’t even apply to my situation.

I looked up the stats back then and I had less than a 50% chance of living those 2 years. Somehow I have managed to extend the time and I am thankful to God for the time I have had. I started 4 companies, had an invention that did ok, lived in China and learned Mandarin, went to Tibet and Antarctica. My life has been good and no one should feel sorry for me. But I am at that stage now where the docs are referring me to the phase 1 trial group, which means, they don’t have much in their arsenal any longer that is known to work. I still think I will outlive my latest prognostication of my death date–which will be the third one I will outlive. Don’t know if I will outlive a fourth one.

Two more gripes then I am done. If you are a Christian, don’t tell cancer patients that if you came to their church their pastor could heal you. I sat down at M. D. Anderson and a lady next to me was there with her sister. She told me to come to her church to be healed. I wanted to ask, why your sister is here rather than there, but didn’t. I was polite. Anyway she would not take my “Everyone dies” answer and stop begging me to go to her church. While I do believe in miracles, it is a fact that everyone in that church will eventually die and not be healed by the pastor. As Christians we know that it is appointed unto man once to die. We should face it like we understand our theology. Don’t tell the patient that the cancer is because of his sin. "For we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.’ Or that if the patient only had enough faith he could be cured—everyone dies.

My final gripe was a guy who found out I had cancer and told me I would be fine. .How did he know? This was at a time when my cancer was starting to get out of control, and while I will be fine in heaven, I don’t think that is quite what he meant. This is merely a way for him to avoid the ugly reality of this world that we all die. It was a dismissal of me and my situation so he wouldn’t have to think about the awfulness of the reality. While I don’t want to play the victim card except to telephone solicitors, I don’t want to be dismissed as if what I have is a hang-nail either. Just say, sorry to hear that ask a question about it or change the topic to football. Treat the cancer patient like anyone else in your life. When Wil Provine, an evangelistically atheist professor at Columbia University, got brain cancer, he and I were in the middle of a discussion at the deepest point of my doubting Christianity. I emailed back saying bluntly that I am not going to treat you any differently, to which he replied, I would be mad at you if you did. On this last point, my atheist friend and I can agree.


Thanks for sharing @gbob. I had come across this article the other day as well: https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/what-does-it-feel-like-to-die/

A great essay, and I agree completely with your sentiments. Having had two close relatives die this year of cancer, and having had many patients in my practice with cancer, I feel disgust at towards the con men and charlatons offering false hope and robbing cancer victims of their quality time with loved ones and leaving the families financially destitute.
It is an interesting in Christian circles how we face death. Some, as you, face it forthrightly and look expectantly to the next state of being, yet some cling to this old life despite the pain and lack of quality.
I compare it to a person slipping off a cliff. If thrown a fishing line, we tend to cling to it, knowing it will only cut into our flesh and will never hold our weight, but cling to it we will.
Prayers are with you. Hopefully this next trial will allow you some quality time with those you love, and your participation will benefit those in the future who travel this path. Cancer treatment has made great progress through the years, and that progress has always been incremental, with a little gain here and a little gain there that adds up over time.

Pevaquark, I laughed when I read in that article “Dear points out that seat belts might be considered carcinogenic.” They are. Makes me think of the society described I think in Hitchhiker’s guide, which solved car crashes by having a sharp metal knife coming out of the steering wheel pointed at the driver’s heart. Everyone drove very slowly.

My dau. In law’s father almost died from a weird electrical problem in his heart. They put in a pace maker and I told him that all that did was ensure he too died of cancer. That is a carcinogenic pacemaker. lol