Here’s the deal. I have a conundrum of thoughts. These thoughts are in no particular order. As a result, my readers will have to accept a free form of ‘whatever’ today. Blog writer Julie Williams once said she felt brokenly alive. If two words ever summarized my life at this moment, ‘brokenly alive’ would be them.
I know it’s only February, but 2021 has been a crappy year. Not only was I was extremely ill for a large portion of January, but several people I have known and loved have died: My father, several coworkers, and my first wife (whom I loved dearly). And then my ex-mother-in-law suffered a catastrophic stroke. My ex-wife’s death hit hard. So hard that although I am supposed to be dying, I keep living. Survivor’s guilt is shredding my soul.
After learning of Karen Ann’s death, I struggle to cope with emotions that will justify my existence or that they [those who’ve passed] shouldn’t be alive. Clinicians will speak to the feelings of powerlessness and grief related to their own experience, and they will try to help people like me recognize their feelings connected to the guilt. However, this past week has been a bitch. I am stuck in a day-in-day-out battle to review my value against another, and no matter which way I view the scene, I should be dead.
Osteoarthritis of the cervical neck, lower back, right hip, and knee pounds my life – morning, noon night. Then there’s Multiple Sclerosis. Follow this with cervical tumor surgery. Add that to Parkinson’s, with its pain, muscle cramps, twitching, and inability to perform some normal day-to-day functions. Drizzle all that with an ooze of left ventricle cardiomyopathy and transient ischemic attacks, and one has to ask, “Why do I get to live and they [other good people] die?” An alternate way I phrased it is, “Why did God take them and not me?”
In the middle of all this shit, I received a call from the county health department. “We have some extra Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses that we need to use. Would you like to come and get vaccinated today?”
I reiterated my list of medical anomalies and that my medical gurus claim I could die any minute. Therefore, they should find someone else who can benefit from the vaccine.
A long pause ensued. “Well,” sighed the young voice. “If you receive the vaccine, you won’t die from COVID.”
My friends, it’s hard to explain. I went and received the vaccine.
Both Karen Ann and friends alike think I am some form of a warrior, that I get up n the morning, put my’ game face’ on, and fight the world. In truth, I’m fucking exhausted. Therefore, since I survived and others did not, am I a coward for not choosing to stay on and “fight” like the “warrior” everyone perceives me to be? These past couple of weeks, just before bed, God has heard me say, “Ok, Parkinson’s. You fucking win.” In war, there is a winner and a loser. And I know one of these diseases will win. Will I then be judged because I willingly choose to succumb? Will Karen Ann see as a real loser?
The strain of appearing normal under the repetitive threat of instantaneous death (cardiomyopathy) is exhausting. Upon haring of my tumor diagnosis my brother instructed me to ‘manage’ through this, that I need to remain positive. (As if overcoming death’s grip can be averted like some business project via a Microsoft Project task list.) My death is not a project plan. Instead, my exhaustion and guilt come from another realization. As I read Karen’s obituary, I suddenly realized something profound. what it was. It came to him in a flash: Whatever my accomplishments, all of the things I loved were rooted when Karen and I shared in marriage. When we were together, we were alive. She was alive. Her uniqueness was significant, and now, only post-death, do I realize how lucky I was.
As a way to process this guilt, I will continue to write. So, I awoke this morning and changed my WordPress blog back to its original theme. (Not that I disliked the new theme. Wait. Ok. I hated it.) Another to-do … I will have to write another ‘The Finale’ blog post. My other ‘The Finale’ was automatically posted during my absence (I forgot about it.) And I am profoundly sorry to all my readers. I hope my next ‘The Finale’ will be better. (I made the old one private, but if anyone wants me to repost it, I will.)
And lastly, starting tomorrow, I will get up, put my’ game face’ on, and continue to assist as many COVID patients as possible. That’s what Karen would want me to do; that’s what I owe her; that’s what I owe all those who did not survive.