Anniversary Re-Blog (Without A Voice)

I often wondered what it must feel like to find yourself in a situation and not have a voice in what happens to you; to have lost all control of your life. So i tried to put myself into that situation, complete with the helplessness and anger that are part of process of dying. Its what we all think about in our darkest moments, but are afraid to speak.

Without A Voice

I’m laying in a hospital room looking like a poster child for health care and beginning to think this process of dying is nothing more than an exaggerated form of free verse. My mind’s in the middle of short little thoughts strung together to form a moment that has no possibility of being remembered without dramatic embellishment. If nothing else, death is drama at its very best, one that allows each of us the opportunity to star in our own limited one-act play. Fortunately, or unfortunately, some of us close after one night while others are forced to tolerate longer engagements of various lengths. Still, the process is unique in terms of how it relates to what remains of our lives.

During the last few days I tried to remember when I stopped being the person I’ve been my entire life. Terminal illness has a way of robbing you of your identity and how you seem to be defined by others. Rick no longer has a house in the suburbs, he has cancer. Rick doesn’t have children, a wife or a job, he has cancer. Seen Rick lately? No, he has cancer. It seems to me I was terminal before I was terminal.

I wonder how and when that happened? There has to be some rule or understanding among non-terminal people who decide when The Terminals will drop out of society; some sort of definition or timeframe they embrace. We love definitions, don’t we? We actually place labels on death depending on a person’s age. If you die under the age of twenty it’s a tragedy. If you die between twenty and thirty, it’s sad. Between thirty and fifty, a sin. Between fifty and seventy, you’re still relatively young. After seventy we quietly move from definition to expression. If you’re between seventy and eighty we raise our eyebrows and tilt our heads as if it’s no real surprise. Beyond eighty we just shrug our shoulders. After all, how much life can one person expect? You suddenly get the feeling you’ve finished dinner a while ago and are taking up space at the table; as if seats at this buffet are at a premium.

Me? I’m in the raised eyebrow/tilted head category. People who work here don’t know whether to feel sorry for me or pat me on the head and ask me if I’ve had fun in Disney World. I have a trach that prevents me from speaking but everyone walks around this room and acts as if I’ve lost my ability to hear, think, reason and feel. Seems like creative math at its worst; you minus sound equals nothing.

There’s a certain mosaic pattern to this eventuality that we don’t seem to appreciate until we’re facing death. Then time suddenly feels like money on a bad night in Vegas. For me it begins and ends with the eyes. I’ve taken and stored mental snapshots in my mind since I reluctantly checked into this paradise a few weeks ago and have watched the eyes around me gradually become as sad as I feel and as dead as I’ll be in a short time.

The suit and scope guys don’t really see me anymore. I’m not sure they ever did. At a certain age faces become blurred to the med dispensers at the side of the bed reading the current box score of my fading life. To them, I’ve become a billable commodity whose space will soon be filled with another, hopefully younger, individual, willing to play another round of poke and probe. Am I sounding cynical yet? Good. I was afraid I was being a bit too subtle.

Of course, no one really wants to hear or speak about this morbid topic unless they have a stake in the outcome. Who can blame them? Why would anyone want to sit around and dissect pain and its eventual outcome? After all, when you’re a Terminal the outcome is like bad literature; predictable and without life. Revisions are unnecessary. So why stick around for the reviews when you know the critics have already made up their mind?

Sometimes, it’s just time.

23 thoughts on “Anniversary Re-Blog (Without A Voice)

  1. DailyMusings

    George this is very dark, but not something I haven’t thought about myself. When my friend was told by her doctors”there is nothing more we can do” I gasped at the thought of what her reaction must have been. What do you do with information like that- how do you process it? She became totally dependent on others the last weeks of her life, telling me “it wasn’t supposed to end like this” She kept her eyes closed most of the time- shutting out reality I suppose. Quick and painless is a better choice- but we are not given that ability to choose most often

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  2. A.PROMPTreply

    Wow, George…this is, this is (such amazing writing. I can’t even tell you. Definitely deep, definitely dark, definitely thought-provoking, but just a superb piece of writing and immersion all the way through. I’m thoroughly impressed!

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  3. Ann Coleman

    I wish we thought, and spoke, about death as honestly as this more often. I think it would give us a way of coping when someone we love is old and dying, and a way to deal with it when our turn comes. Very honest, and very good post.

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Ann. I think we hide from this subject because of all the obvious reasons. But you’re right, speaking about it openly might make us less fearful when the inevitable comes. Death is the ultimate democracy so we may as well be open about everything that surrounds it. Thanks for the comment.

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  4. vanbytheriver

    What a thoughtful treatment of a very important subject, George, and one that we never want to discuss. Terminals as a “billable commodity”…so well described. I’ve lost family to sudden tragic death, and long lingering illness. I have my own opinion about which is worse. A great post, so well written.

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    1. George Post author

      Thank you, Van. It remains a topic most people prefer not to discuss and while I understand the reasons, it doesn’t change the inevitable. Like you, I’ve lost family members both ways and though losing them quick is a shock and difficult to accept, the slower process of suffering and dying is difficult to endure and watch for all of us. Thank you for commenting.

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  5. Nurse Kelly

    I love your piece here. I think about this stuff all the time. I think we have to remember our choices, though.. we don’t have to buy into the definitions or believe what others believe necessarily. You really can find purpose and meaning in each stage of life if you decide to… but thinking that way is something that is foreign to so many people, and that is the challenge to me, at least, as a nurse. I can tell you, however, that I have seen many different ways to cope with a “terminal” diagnosis, and they aren’t all gloomy – a lot depends on the person’s spirit and just on choices they’ve made all along in their lives. 🙂

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    1. George Post author

      I totally agree, Kelly. I think in this piece I was placing myself into the mind of someone who was alone and dispirited because of that loneliness. No one to speak for them and no control over how life was leaving them. I believe, as you do, that it’s possible to live life to the very end with meaning and an attitude that will help the patient and those around them. Unfortunately, there are some who are not as blessed and whose lives leading up to the moment are as difficult as their death.
      As always I enjoy your perspective. You always put a positive spin on difficult subjects…:)

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  6. joylovestravel

    My lovely mum got this news in the summer and those suit and scope guys definitely didn’t see her, she was (only just) in the eyebrows raised/shoulders tilted category. You’ve hit the nail on the head with this post George in my recent experience!

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  7. In My Cluttered Attic

    George, what a way of describing the process. All the different acts in this play that I’ll call “Exciting.” You’ve accessed the various stages with a keen eye, and the state we can find ourselves in along the way. No wonder Indiana Jones was told by Marion, “You’re only walking around to avoid the funeral expense!” Murder victims are robbed of a certain amount of dignity (if we can even call it that) in death. At least the sudden surprise of death can spare us a certain amount of worry over what’s about to happen. Yet, that steals from us a Camille like finish. We hate to be in a spot where we have to think about it too much, especially when it is going to be a pretty gruesome exit from this life we know. If your young and going, you feel cheated, and if your old and going, you might sometimes feel a sense of relief, but nobody wants to go unless they’re just totally miserable. That leaves you feeling so sorry for how bad it must have been for someone to want to take their own life, as opposed to waiting for the unexpected twist ending. We dread the prospect of dying so much (maybe because it feels all wrong) that we even try to paint a more colorful image for our passing, “Well, now I enter the Autumn of my life.” as if to say, “Hey, it’s all natural.” All in all I feel like Cary Grant when discussing death…”With so many of my friends doing it lately, I just hope I do it well.” Thought provoking article, George. Makes me wish Death would take a Holiday. :O)

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      1. In My Cluttered Attic

        My pleasure, George. It’s not always easy to find the humor in things—especially something like Death—however, I can’t shake this image of him sitting in a graveyard looking at his watch while tapping his knee and saying something like, “Business ought to be coming up any minute now.” We sure keep him busy, whether we like it or not. Hope we force him into working overtime! 😀

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