Archive for June 25th, 2012

Death Has Many Causes

 The other day I was home with a migraine. . . it lasted a few days actually and so I spent time in a cool dark apartment trying to stay quiet.  I had on the television though I really didn’t watch it.

It must have been a Saturday or Sunday because it was a marathon of movies.

A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, and two others.

I was a bit nauseated by all the sappy American love stories.  I’m used to watch indie and foreign films or documentaries on Netflix.

But anyway, I was awake during the end of The Notebook.

Okay, I totally believe in the fact that when one elder spouse dies, the other often dies within a year.  And I believe this for a variety of reasons. . . lack of care for oneself while being a caregiver, likelihood  of already being in ill health or the statistics of being older. . . I think it is also a huge existential, spiritual, and psychological blow to loose the love of your life.

So, it’s not that I am not romantic.  I love the British poets.  I love a good story.  I love the possibility. . .

BUT, the ending of the movie just drove me crazy.

For perspective though, I get crazy when someone says that a person expired. . . we are not cartons of milk nor are we library books or movie rentals.  We don’t expire. . . unless you are looking at the etymology of the word… spire, like in spirit. . . to breathe life into . . . so to expire is to loose one’s breath or spirit.  But people don’t use the word in that way.

So, to have an elderly couple depicted holding hands and falling off to sleep like that made me itch a bit.

It’s a lovely idea.  I’m sure that my parents, married 52 years, think that it would be great to cuddle up, spooning, and never wake up. . . if that’s how you have to go.

But it’s not a reality.

We all think that we were all grow old and die with a room filled with those who love us.

I am kind of picturing some sort of Norman Rockwell painting of dying.

Death has many causes.

Reality. . .

We may die due to accident or illness.

We may live with dementia or Alzheimer’s and forget the world as the rest of us know it.

Our house may catch on fire.

I think I mentioned in a previous post that someone I knew told me her story. . . her mom went to the doctor for one thing and was admitted to the hospital and cancer was discovered.  That’s not what brought her to the doctor.

The family was trying to wrap their minds around their mom having cancer and she did not live through the night.  No one thinks about that, let alone plans for it.

Death has many causes.

Think about 9/11. . . people were going to work like they do five days a week.

We call it Patriot’s Day but I’ve never understood that name.  They were going to work like we do every other day and buying, selling, creating, negotiating, closing deals, etc.

Government officials needed to make the day political, to show that we weren’t weak Americans but strong patriots, waving flags, rather than being present to the gravity of the mass loss that came about that day.

Even on that day, people died for different reasons. . . smoke inhalation, broken walls falling in, some even decided to jump from hundreds of floors above, deciding to end their lives rather than wait for death to come.

Death has many causes.

Death is still one of the biggest mysteries in our lives.

We know the death trajectory of someone who is dying of cardiac reasons or cancer.

We understand the process that happens during a massive stroke or heart attack.

But why in that moment?

Why does one person survive an accident and others don’t?

I’m not sure if going down that road is helpful?  I think those kinds of questions allow us to keep distance from the raw, fearful experience of understanding with all of our senses that I could actually die, sitting here writing this post.

It’s not about how, why, when, etc.  It’s about. . . if not right at this moment, it will at some point.

Death has many causes.

I still believe that death is a container.

It contains our lives, gives us an edge to walk like a tightrope or to bounce off of, and gives us a boundary in which to live.

If I lived forever would I feel pressure to get my doctorate done?

If we could live forever, would I sit and watch my dad taking a nap, savoring the good relationship we have had all these years and feeling some bitter sweetness of knowing that some day, he may lose his abilities, his consciousness, and yes, one day, he will take his last breath.

And yet, I know, that I have really appreciate my parents for a long time now, while others have spent a lot of time pulling away from family or focused on creating their own lives.

I’ve done that too but their deaths are not in the back of my mind or in my far peripheral vision; that knowledge has been more like the dark floaters that you see when you stare off.

And what about my own death?

I’ve had clients work on obituaries to give them a wake up.  Helping them to remember the meaning and purpose of their lives in order to motivate change and responsibility.

But why don’t we think about this without having to be in that kind of a situation?

I don’t dwell on what dying will be like, but I do think about it.

While I am laying on the yoga mat in the corpse pose. . . when it’s late at night and I’m awake. . . when I’ve had 3+ days of migraine pain. . . when I am sitting on the airplane. . .  when I am stopped at a traffic light.

Death has many causes and we have no guarantee of the time, place, or circumstance.

Am I ready?

Do I have things left undone?

Will the people I love wonder how I felt about them?

Have I written all the words I want to write?

Have I taken the chances on the big things in life to make the moments count?

Death is the ultimate bell of mindfulness.

Am I going to keep my attention focused on all the distractions that present themselves?

Am I going to ignore the chime?

Or will I (or you) embrace it and help inform how I live, right here, right now?

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