Tag Archive: Death and Dying


“Excited?” Maria asked as she placed a slice of cake in front of me and sat to my left. “I mean, it’s here. It’s finally here.”  Then, leaning in, “It’s here.”

“Weird. It just feels weird,” I responded while typing ‘execution commands’ on my laptop. I momentarily glanced at the memo taped over the cake, candy, chips, assorted snacks, bottles of sparkling juice, party streamers, ribbons, and helium-filled balloons. 

“COVID Tiger Task Force Deactivation.” the internal memo broadcasted to staffers. The shutdown comes as the pandemic continues. The U.S. will eclipse 610,000 deaths by Summers’ end, while the global death toll currently exceeds 4.1 million. As we approach deactivation, the entire team was focused on ensuring a smooth transition of key members back to normal business operations. Yet, I am unsure what ‘normal’ was anymore.

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There’s a ton of historical NDE experiences, some dating back centuries. Their stories are similar to those told in hundreds of books or websites (including mine). Though details vary across, there are many commonalities, including floating upward, viewing the scene of their death; spending time in a different realm, meeting relatives, feeling God, or something like ‘complete love.’ Once all that occurs, the person is told to return to live another day. For many, the person reports the experience was not a dream but “authentic,” changes profoundly post-NDE, and has a hard time returning into everyday life. 

My recent experience is similar, but not totally. Here’s a recap.

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My body did not experience any significant trauma. There was no earthquake. No carjacking went wrong, nor was I violently assaulted. My condo unit did not collapse, and I was not involved in a car wreck. Neither did I neither fall down the stairs nor overdose. I did not experience a heart attack and didn’t see the ‘light’ during an operation. All I did was fall asleep in a recliner.

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Dying is hard. The body refuses to give up. For others, the physical part of death is not the barrier. Instead, information processing is the hardest culprit. There are too many issues to address before the end. In other words, we run out of time. ‘Death’ grabs us when least expected and refuses to release us. Describing my process is like being in the grip of a boa constrictor.

Boa constrictors are not venomous. Instead, they squeeze the victim to death. The squeezing overwhelms the circulatory system, and the prey dies from ischemia. And therein I lay. I came to the acknowledgment this week that my body is slowly giving way. Life a slow-motion film, the amount of dizziness, the pain just below my rib cage, and the persistent fatigue slowly crept in each subsequent week. I sense it. No. Correction. It squeezes. I feel it. There are some days when I wish to fall asleep and call it a life.

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A few hours before my physician’s appointment, I read Dr. Rebecca Elon’s story on the Kaiser Health News. Living in the age of COVID, she lost her husband, experienced the death of a sister, and watched her mother battle dementia. The geriatrician and policy expert made a striking comment. “Reading about caregiving of this kind was one thing. Experiencing it was entirely different.” Elon’s statement struck so deep that I took the time to not her comment. Thinking Elon’s quote was a worthy citation in a future blog post, I never imagined referencing hours later, just after my doctor’s appointment.

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Katie Cassidy revealed that her father’s (singer David Cassidy) last words were ‘so much wasted time.’ Cassidy’s last words have been on my mind for weeks, and none more present while I have been cleaning out my home. In Sweden, this type of decluttering called döstädning— meaning ‘death’ and städning meaning ‘cleaning. In the final preparation of my departure, I don’t want others to be spending hours clearing out unnecessary items. Therefore, I am unloading all I can while alive. As I sorted, I kept thinking, “Why? Why did I waste so much time collecting this stuff?

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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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Since Sunday, I have been feeling fatigued. It is simple to describe: On and off feelings of profound fatigue or weariness. That description does not include mental fatigue, the type where I sit at work and ask what I am doing? I have compared such fatigue to being listless, drained, too tired to walk, and too tired to think. A cancer patient was so lethargic that she sent an email canceling her treatment appointment, to which her physician called, stating her body required fluids. “Ah,” I wondered aloud, “Maybe I require fluids.” However, upon seeing several empty bottles of ‘Ice Mountain’ natural spring water (or so they say), I quickly doubted my conclusion. I know what ‘it’ (the symptoms) meant, but I have been so adept at postponing anything relating to dying that I put it out of my mind.

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The day-in-day-out process of Parkinson’s decline is slow and methodical. Parkinson’s is a slow progressive pain in the behind. The stage at which the symptoms appear, progress, and develop is tedious. Last week, brain fog. This week, not so much. However, this week, my hands’ fumble. Next week, maybe they will not.

My case manager got to the heart of the situation, “As you experience your body declining, ‘What are your thoughts?'”

“It’s confirmation my body is dying.”

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There are times I wish I could go to sleep and not wake up. Not that I overtly want death, but rather, some days I am so tired to get up. Many days are rarely the same. I feel great by day. By night, my knee and Sigmoid Colon ache, and a rush of blood oozes forth that’s accompanied by a continuous backache. All of which forces surrender by 8:30 PM with a silent scream, “Fuck it.” Yet, the weird or odd timing of statements between friends compound these endless cycles. 

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