In Brief — A contemplation of humanity’s inescapable date with the Grim Reaper. The old folks’ home is the terminal where death is waiting for the next departure. [Written in July/August 2017.]
Life is an Opportunity; Use It Before Death Ends It —
What happened to all those years that were racing by? Did I use them wisely or did I waste them? Now in old age I realize that all of them, both selfish and giving, added to the person I am, but is that enough? All I have now is the time remaining. I hope it’s enough to make up for the time wasted.
Until late 2011, I was seemingly healthy. It was a mirage. A sudden dizziness led to them telling me that a walnut-sized tumor in the back of my head was the culprit. The surgeon in Umeå warned that I might not be able to swallow. For several years before that I would briefly choke and laugh it off saying, “That’ll be the death of me.” Little did I know that it was almost true.
After the operation I awoke in the stroke ward. What am I doing here? I understand why as I look at myself today. A couple of months later, I was transferred to a rehab center where I briefly had biofeedback training to restore my ability to swallow. It halfway worked for a while, but the promising ability faded. If it had continued I might be swallowing today. I’d be a different person and wouldn’t be here. Those forks in the road can lead to different destinations.
Unfortunately, my physical deficits were a huge source of stress for my loving wife. As bad as it is to be denied the ability to eat with her, the stress of having to dance to my tune of thrice daily feedings led to my volunteering to live in an elder care facility. In 2015 that became a reality. Regular visits and loads of help are poor substitutes for a close relationship, but at least the stress is gone.
So how did blogging come about? Fearing that I’d be depressed at the abrupt change in my life, in 2013 my eldest daughter set up my blog to motivate me. I’d always heard that blogging ate your life and thus avoided it despite the requests, but now I’m hooked. For good or ill I publish a new piece every week. I see blogging as a way to maybe inspire, but, at a minimum, to plant seeds that I hope will allow me to leave the world a better place for my having been here.
Inspiration Comes Unexpectedly —
Reading is an enjoyable feeding of my brain. On July 27th, 2017, the New York Times reviewed Cory Taylor’s “Dying: A Memoir.” Although Ms. Taylor died of cancer shortly after writing it, Jennifer Senior’s moving review stirred me to write about a subject that’s one we seldom want to deal with. Living in the old folks’ home where death is a shadow in the corridor inspired me to write this.
I’ve written of how an immortal man looked with envy on a dead person. I helplessly watched a close doctor friend surrender to cancer after weeks of splintering a stick clenched between his teeth when waves of pain swept over him. I wept for a talented friend who had swallowed the Socratic elixir that would carry him away much too soon. I was stunned by the diagnosis and unexpected speed with which ALS took a psychologist friend away from us.
How will I pass into that nothingness that awaits me? Will it hurt? Will I cry in fear as my aunt did when she realized that death approached or will it silently steal upon me in sleep as it did with my mother? Will I rage, “Too soon! Too soon! I have much yet to do!” Or will I accept it as merely a natural part of the life cycle that billions before me have experienced?
Perhaps understandably, we distance ourselves from the deaths of strangers. Bullets. Bombs. Starvation. Execution. Drowning. Disease. Young and old, past and present, death comes in many forms. It is unique for each human.
Thanks to Cory Taylor and Jennifer Senior I’ll borrow from Harold Pinter. When the shadow embraces me, I’ll miss my beloved wife. I’ll miss my family. I’ll miss my friends. I’ll miss this vaie of pleasures and tears. I hope I’ll leave the world better for having been here.
The Weekly Sampler—
As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.
If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.
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