trond sailing

Trond at the helm off Nova Scotia coast

The first week of Trond’s plan to starve himself to death went pretty well, as he continued to remember what he wanted to do. When I was about to eat, I would ask whether he was okay with not eating. I had to be very sure that was what he still wanted. He assured me again and again that it was.

But to die by starvation was not an easy path for a demented mind, which got more demented with each passing food-less day. Soon he got hungry, of course, both body and mind longing for the nourishment he was denying himself. He began sneaking out to the kitchen to scrounge around. I would find him there furtively taking crackers from the cupboard and cheese from the fridge. I and the supportive hospice team decided to let him eat a little now and then. Since he was still drinking, it was going to take a while to realize his desired outcome anyway.

But I would ask him if he still wanted to die and, when he said yes, tried to explain that eating would keep him alive. By the end of the second week, my argument made no sense to him. He no longer understood the relationship between eating and living. It had become a struggle.

To make matters much, much worse, I who had managed his care myself, finally had to have around the clock help in order to get any sleep. By that point in his demise, Trond was getting up and wandering around at all hours, having messy bathroom-related accidents, raiding the fridge, and risking falls. I could no longer handle him myself.

I say having help made things worse because, although I did my best to vet the professional caregivers sent to help us, one of them ended up sabotaging Trond’s already challenging plan to die. Despite getting assurances she understood that Trond wanted to starve himself to death, a friend of mine caught the aide, who was angrily opposed to his plan, in the act of feeding him.

I soon discovered that she had been emptying the freezer, defrosting and cooking food for him while I was asleep. And that is why it took almost a month rather than two weeks for him to die.

But die he slowly and gracefully did, and it was a peaceful death, as I and our two children held loving vigil by his side. Most of the hospice nurses surveyed in Oregon about means of death say the patients who choose Trond’s plan to stop eating die what the nurses deem a “good” death. Unnecessarily prolonged as it was, Trond’s death was still a good one.

Trond’s wish would have been to die like our friend Eton did, out at sea on his sailboat. Or like the Eskimos and Native peoples he admired, he wanted to wander off into the wilderness to starve once he felt his time was up. How dearly I wish we could’ve done that for him!

I admire my beloved more than I can say. And I am oh, so grateful he chose a path that didn’t leave us both spending our final days in a nursing home watching him vegetate and suffer while he no longer even recognized me or our children.

As a result of Trond’s brave, kind example, I too am committed to the idea of taking my life, if necessary, before my life takes me or creates a bleak future for our kids. God bless us all in our inexorable, sometimes terrifying mortality. God bless us all.

About the Author: Suzanne Grenager

A seasoned writer and mentor with a gift for helping people see and be their most authentic, empowered Self.


  1. Fran Johns July 20, 2023 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    I’m just sorry the CA End of Life Option Act does not have a dementia provision (a difficult addition many of us would like to see.) But I’m proud of you for helping Trond with the death he sought. Without dementia, Voluntary Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED) is comfortable, manageable and often quite fast. End of Life Choices California (www.EOLCCA) can help!! Blessings on your good heart.

    • Suzanne Grenager July 20, 2023 at 4:23 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, dear Fran, and for all you do to help make end of life choices as painless and graceful as possible.

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