The following excerpt is from the op-ed, "No one should have to suffer in agony like my 2 close friends did", by Richard Morgan that first appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on April 11, 2022. Richard was living in Virginia at the time of the op-ed’s publication.
It’s one thing to watch your friends die. It’s another to watch them die slowly and painfully, and to know this is what lies in store for you, too.
My friendship with Bob Knapp grew out of Virginia soil. We were boyhood friends in middle school in Virginia Beach. We attended Hampden-Sydney College as roommates and then as fraternity brothers. Together, we entered the naval aviation training program to serve as Navy pilots during the Vietnam War. Later, we were ushers in each other’s weddings, and then we were godparents to each other’s children.
At midlife, Bob suffered a slow, gruesome death from leukemia, likely from exposure to Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam, along with another former squadron mate of mine, Stan Starling. I was by Bob’s and Stan’s bedsides during their last months of his life. I can attest that they endured uncontrollable pain.
Witnessing my friends’ deaths firsthand left me with the permanent impression of the hardships that can be suffered not only by dying people, but also by their loved ones. It convinced me there has to be a better and more humane way to live out those final moments of life before death than in agony and devitalization, unable to say goodbye to those whom you love.