Tag Archive: A Good Death


Finding gratefulness can be damn tricky. The thought comes not from despair or from some illusionary dream busted from a lack of effort. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that one should cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes and give thanks continuously for all things that contributed to your advancement. Phooey to that. Several weeks past cold-turkey of pain medications, listening to persistent tinnitus, and walking like an extra on the set of some zombie episode leaves me sick of it all.

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I Fear the Process, Not the End

Extreme nausea announced itself around 9:00 PM Saturday. Granted, it’s not the visitor you want knocking at your door, but arrive it did. “Hey, there. Mind if I come to visit? I’m just gonna find a comfy spot in your brain and batter you for the next 9 hours and make your life a living hell. What ya’ say?” Beneath the sometimes wickedly sarcastic humor and laughter of this blog lay this writer’s mental awareness of the darkness and horror of dying. This past weekend reiterated that I fear the process more than the destination.

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As new Parkinson’s symptoms peel back any notion that my body can live in some delicate truce, I continue to reassess what I can and cannot do. For example, an Arizona State University study of Muhammad Ali’s public speaking revealed Ali exhibited symptoms of slowed and slurred speech several years before diagnosis. Researchers determined that Ali’s syllables per second slowed by 26 percent over thirteen years. But slurred speech was never my symptom, at least at this moment.

This week, left-hand tremor has become more prominent with the hands at the sides. A ‘Keyesence Detection’ test revealed, “The person has characteristics in their typing similar to people with early to mild Parkinson’s Disease. Tremor and movement exceeded normal ranges. An asymmetrical tremor of 4-6 Hz suggests Parkinson’s Tremor.’ But I already knew this. A tremor while typing has been the bane of my existence for several years. Tremor with the hand at my side has not. That’s new. That means Parkinson’s has progressed, even if ever so slightly.

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Last Guy in the Room

It’s been 18 months since we last met, but Ms. J. (to whom I wrote many letters, search ‘Dear Ms. J.’ should you care to read) decided several weeks ago that we needed to ‘get together.’ Historically, she’s always set the date, then changes the date, followed by a final cancellation. Two weeks ago, we agreed to meet February 21. Claiming a client desperately needed her, Ms. J. canceled last Tuesday and rescheduled for February 23. And true to form last Thursday, claiming another business opportunity, she withdrew from the rescheduled February 23 dinner. “Can you find a time that’s convenient for us both?” she requested. I said I would, but never did, nor will. Yeah, I get it. I do. It’s not that she doesn’t want to spend time with me. Instead, when one is dying, even a prolonged death, the dying is the last person in the room you want to be with. And, suddenly, when something else arises in the ‘living’ (i.e., the ‘living world’), you no longer need to be with the last person in the room.

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The patient has to be proactive. May are not. Need an example? when the doctor seemed ready to breeze past initial blood results showing normal white blood cell counts, but red blood cells suddenly below normal, I forced her to opine. “Oh,” she mumbled while looking at the computer. “These results are way out whack. We need to run more through some more blood tests. I need to see if your results are iron-deficient anemia or something else. I don’t believe you have colon cancer, for the blood results are right for Colon Cancer. So, an Iron+TBIC+Ferritin blood test will be the first test.”Proactivity ensured doctors did not miss critical information, but I am unsure what ‘not right means.’

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About The Fog

In the film My Life, Bob Jones begins making videotapes of himself after receiving a terminal diagnosis. In the tapes, he outlines his life, beliefs, and life lessons. However, at one point, Jones whispers to his son, “Dying is a really hard way to learn about life.” The ending scene is touching: At the time of death, he is shown on a metaphysical roller coaster with his hands releasing the railing, raising his arms freely in the air. Metaphorically, he lets go of life and finally enjoys the ride. In a way, the film’s director provides viewers the opportunity to contemplate what in their life requires healing.

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Parkinson’s scared me more than cancer. Those words bored through my thinking in late February 2020 and remain persistent now. Unfortunately, nearly every terminal patient who’s taken a stoic stance (remaining in control), there comes the point in time during the disease when you lose control. I remember watching Ted Koppel’s Nightline program when Morris Schwartz (Tuesdays with Morrie) talked to Nightline host Ted Koppel. “Well, Ted, one day soon, someone’s gonna have to wipe my ass. It’s the ultimate sign of dependency. Someone wiping your bottom. But I’m working on it.”

Control. I thought of the word ‘control’ when my Neurologist informed me I moved from Parkinson’s Stage 1 to Parkinson’s Stage 2. In Stage 2, Symptoms start getting worse. Tremor, rigidity, and other movement symptoms affect both sides of the body. One can remain independent, but daily tasks become more difficult. And that’s where I’m at: Life is more difficult, more complicated, and more painful in the ass.

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Except for Aleve and Tylenol, this past week has been living medication-free. However, the deceptive nature of living with Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Arthritis, and tumors percolate inside. If you look at me, you’d be convinced by how I look like the picture of health. However, there have been nights when I cheated on my vow of medication-free. For example, last night, I had to sleep in my recliner for two two-hour periods due to pain by downing a single tablet of Tylenol #3 (300 mg of Acetaminophen and 60 mg of Codeine). I guess medication-free is not medication-free when one has to sneak in 30 mg of Codeine now and then, but when your body gets to this stage of pain, many will do what they have to do.

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Every time I meet someone in grief, I realize they are not alone in the grieving process. And when you’re grieving, you never know when you will receive an unexpected telephone call, a neighbor knocking at the door with several cups of coffee and an offer of companionship, or a sudden FaceTime call from a once-distant relative. 

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It was late summer of 2010 while walking near the Hudson River shoreline when I heard Chris Carter talk about his retirement. Carter was on the Mike & Mike Show when a host asked Carter how he knew it was time to retire. “Mentally, I was still sharp. I could read the defense, understand the play, and mentally perform. Unfortunately, my body was no longer responding to what I was telling it to do. There was a delay, a gap, or in some cases, an inability to perform. That’s when I knew it was time.” I couldn’t relate. And for the better part of a decade, I never understood what Carter meant. Very few will ever experience a mind-body relationship like professional athletes. But these past ten days have provided one hell of an education. 

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