Death & Dying
Easter is a couple of weeks away. Personally, I am in just the right group to possibly die from COVID-19. Age 79. Multiply encounters with death due to cardiovascular “issues”. Died twice in one day in 2007, and spent a few moments in January of 2019 wondering-with the Holy Mother about whether I should cross over. Under the barely excusable treatments out of industrial medicine, I was ready to give up. Hospitals are not good places in which to be dying. When dead, well the suffering is over, but on the Way to being dead, our present day rites of dying may need more spiritual arts.
A lot of folks are taught, and many actually believe, there is a life after death – an afterlife. Imagine, for example, a nation – say Italy – where most folks are Catholics. When you get old – and I speak from experience here – life is both precious and: “maybe I’ve had enough.”
There’s an old joke about an elderly patient whose doctor advised him that if he just quit smoking and drinking, he could live another ten years. He turned to his doctor and replies: “Why would I want to live ten more years, if I couldn’t smoke and drink?”
For the “elderly” some of our most important pleasures are minor bad habits. “Oh, you could die, sez the nearest ill-informed mothering person.” Well, death is certain, and while I am dying the very least I ought to be able to do is live.
So, I think a lot about death these days, given the reality that whatever the outcome, I will encounter this “virus” – which seems to be everywhere. Encounter, and perhaps defeat. The fact is a lot of folk will not get “infected”. Some will get exposed, but their immune system is just fine thank you, in large part from enjoying life. Most folk stop following their mother’s advice as soon as possible, and live to a ripe old age.
It is not that the elderly get tired of life, so much as they get tired of being bothered. Have a glass of wine, and go outside for a smoke and a nap is often a desirable way to pass the time. Such simple domestic routines are often the reason older folk get out of bed in the morning.
Having to go to the hospital is signing up for the torture of being constantly bothered by folk whose duty seems to keep you alive whether you really want that or not.
There is wonderful saying: “The best six doctors anywhere, and no one can deny it. Are sunshine, water, rest and air, exercise and diet. These will gladly you attend, if you are only willing. Your mind they’ll ease, your will they’ll mend, and charge you not a shilling.”
If you are old and seem to have this flu, into the hospital you are supposed to go, and the nanny state will have its way, mostly so the politicians can appear to be “doing something”. And the doctors. And the epidemiologists. Modern Western Culture spends more time trying to fix the blame, than it does trying to fix the problem.
The more we abusively bother our dying elderly, with taking vitals, and drawing blood, and making them sleep in the same rooms with noisy others, out of the sun light and the fresh air, and their favorite pleasure, … many just say: “fuck it”, and let go their hold on life. Did the virus kill them, or did our ill conceived Way of Care kill them?
In either case, She catches us all at the Gate of Death, welcomes us home for a break, and treats us with amazing kindness at the same time.
Each moment of life is precious, all the more so near the inevitable end. Live each day as if it was your last, it just might be.