A Fight for Life Consumes Both Mother and Son

From The New York Times:

Sontag Swimming in a Sea of Death
A Son’s Memoir. By David Rieff.

“A good death” may be one of the emptiest phrases in the English language. Research has confirmed that no two people use it to mean exactly the same thing. Even the premise is unclear; for whom, exactly, is that death supposed to be good? Many would prefer a swift, sudden and painless exit for themselves — but a little warning when it comes to friends and relatives, with time to prepare and to say goodbye.

“A bad death” is another matter. We all know those when we see them, the miserably protracted and painful affairs that overwhelm everyone — the deceased and survivors alike — with panic, guilt and bitter regrets. And now we have a new benchmark of bad. The writer Susan Sontag’s death, as set out in this short and immensely disturbing account by her son, David Rieff, must rank as one of the worst ever described.

Three decades of having cancer, being treated for cancer or waiting for cancer to recur might bring out the inner philosopher in some. In Ms. Sontag, an inner adolescent seems to have emerged instead, with each battle and victory strengthening her determined appetite for life and her conviction that she was immortal.

More here.