Tag Archives: Dying

Excuse Me, Are You Stiff?

 

We were traveling recently through North Carolina with a side trip on the way home through Appomattox Virginia to visit the National Park and the site of Lee’s surrender to Grant. On the way out, about two miles from the parks entrance, I passed a building that looked like an airline hangar with this sign on the side of the driveway.

img_4606 Now if this were my business and someone suggested this name, I’d probably laugh at the marketing possibilities and then come to my senses. Besides the fact the building looked like a drive through for something I’m not sure of, this is just a bad idea.

Yes, people will take pictures and remember the name but do you want your deceased loved ones taken to a place whose name is a punchline? Suggestion….first names work, as do other more comforting forms of expression.

It actually makes me wonder if the owner’s name is Stiff Bruce and he thought the name might be too insensitive.

You think I’m crazy? Take another look at the photo. The angels seem to be turning away. It seems even heaven has difficulty with the name.

You can start with the punch lines at any time. The possibilities are endless.

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.

Without A Voice

Someone, somewhere………

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.

Celebrating Life

Brittany Maynard died quietly on Saturday, surrounded by her husband and parents after battling a brain tumor for almost a year. One day later, Lauren Hill celebrated the “best day of my life” on a basketball court in front of ten thousand people, knowing her own brain tumor was in the next room of a wide open door she couldn’t close.

Brittany and Lauren never met in this life. Never shared their struggles. fears, defeated dreams or the arms of someone who knew what the other might be feeling…. and desperately praying for. And yet, I’m sure they watched as each became the face of their individual causes and, with much difficulty, stood on the mountains and floors of their respective dreams. Along the way, they touched tens of millions of lives, showed us that living your life is winning the battle, inspired others fighting the same odds and generated dialogue about how to live…and how to die.

People who have never been told they only have one more season to live have offered their opinions about how death should be met. I’ve always taken exception to those who presume to know what they would do in situations so far down in their pockets they can’t reach them. While there are moral and ethical questions that help to guide our lives, to those who have never been there, immeasurable pain and suffering was always somewhere else when we stood on a table and proudly spoke about our beliefs to others. As the saying goes, it’s never scary to die one day. It’s scary to die today. What each of us will do that day remains to be seen.

I’d like to think that my beliefs would guide my decision if I were ever in that awful position, but quite honestly, I don’t know how I would feel. So I don’t judge Brittany’s decision to die on her terms or Lauren to live on hers.

I would rather celebrate the lives of two young women who followed their dreams for as long as life would allow. Who told their individual stories with dignity, honesty and a passion to live. Though they never met in this life, they came together on a single weekend, holding hands to bridge the days of life and death.

Some would say that was coincidental. Some would say.