Hello Friends. This terribly late post is on the subject of Death and Dying. It is, in fact, late due to death and dying. This past month I lost not one, but two people I loved very much. One suddenly, tragically, and much too early, and one at age 90 after a long illness. This has been a lousy month. I need to talk to someone about it. Thanks for listening. Hope it helps when someone you love dies. (Spoiler alert: They all do.)
No one is actually dead until the ripples they caused in the world die away. – Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man
When I was in high school we had a saying: “Life’s a bitch, and then you die.” We were very cynical teenagers. (Think turtlenecks and berets and wine and cigarettes and discussions on the nature of reality. Apparently we were French philosophers in the 1930’s…) At that age most people have no idea that it’s true; Life is a bitch, and then you do die.
Many people sail blissfully along for decades before they have to deal with death. I did not have that luxury. My grandmother died when I was 9, and her mother died a year later. I was not equipped to deal with the loss. To make matters worse, I was surrounded by emotionally retarded adults. They couldn’t deal with it themselves, much less help me. I learned early that people leave. Suddenly, and without explanation. (Cue abandonment issues…)
My favorite exchange on death is as follows, by my husband and his best friend:
Hubby: “We’re all gonna die!!!”
Friend (reassuringly): “Well, we’re all gonna die…”
Hubby: “I meant now!”
Friend: *Sighs* “Yeah, me too…”
I do not fear Death.
I do not fear Death. Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means ready to go, but I am unafraid. The world got on before me, it’ll get on fine when I’m gone. I do have a bit of FOMO, (“Fear of Missing Out”, as I’m sure something hella fun will happen right after I go), but I’ll be honest: I’m exhausted already. I don’t believe in a heaven or hell, (besides that which we make here on earth). I see Death as the “The Great Sleep.” I so look forward to having nothing to do, nothing to worry about, nothing in my in-box. Forever. It makes me breathe easier just knowing that all this has an end. (Anyone with chronic and severe pain issues understands exactly where I’m coming from. Those hale and hearty bastards don’t… yet. Sadly, eventually most will.)
The Death “Equation”
Death is hardest on those left behind. When a dear friend recently died suddenly, another friend told us something that really helped. There are two ways to die: Either you go suddenly, and your loved ones suffer, or you linger, and you suffer. It’s like an equation, where the suffering is a constant. Like a see-saw of suffering, the weight of it can be all on your side, or all on their side. It made me so happy for my friend, who got to die without suffering, without pain, without loss. I hope for that for all my loved ones. And if I can lighten their part of the equation by taking it on myself, I am happy to do so. Even if it breaks my heart.
Living Wake, anyone?
I wish to have what my friend Travis calls “A Living Wake.” If you have enough of a heads up that your time is nearing, throw a blowout, with food and adult beverages, and surround yourself with the people you love who love you. It always annoys me how people can never find the time to come see you, but die and everyone suddenly finds the time. Love is for the Living.
So many people live their life consciously, but don’t approach death in the same manner. I hope to, when my time comes, practice Conscious Dying. I want to leave at a time of my choosing. I don’t want to be a prisoner trapped in a body that is no good for anything but filling the coffers of the doctors and the drug pushers. I don’t want to lose my mind. I don’t want to be a burden to those that love me. I want to be able to die with dignity, and without suffering. We do it for animals, we need to make that option available to suffering humans as well. A few states do it for the terminally ill, but only if there is no hope for treatment, and only with a doctor’s permission. F*ck that. So if you are in constant pain and don’t want them using machines and surgery and deadly chemicals to prolong your life, you are denied a safe and comfortable exit. That’s bullsh*t. Amsterdam is working on a law that states that if you feel you have lived enough, you get to make that choice, not the industry that benefits from keeping you “alive” at all costs. You will not get to make money off my animated husk, you vultures. I am going to start an account to save up for a trip to Amsterdam. I think that being able to choose death with dignity is very important. I had no say in how and when I arrived here, no one is going to control how and when I leave.
SPOILER ALERT: We’re all going to die.
Kinda takes the pressure off, right? This kid Sigmund in this clip sez it best. Laughed my head off. (Not as bad as this guy, admittedly…)
If you are not familiar with the author Terry Pratchett, go here, and buy everything you can afford. (Or borrow them from you local library. Or get the books-on-tape, or audiobook, or whatever the kids are putting sound on nowadays.) I bought my first two off a dollar book rack at a community theatre in Boston. A childhood friend was in a play. Another friend and I got lost on the way to the theatre and almost didn’t make it. Had we not, my life would have been very different. Terry Pratchett was a master at storytelling, a master linguist, a master of the pun, and helped change my relationship with Death. Death is one of Terry’s best – and funniest – characters.
DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said death, THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH. – Terry Pratchett.
I know this is an awkward, stream-of-consciousness rant about Death. But in a hundred years we’ll all be dead and none of it will matter. So there’s that…. 🙂