Tag Archive: Death and Dying


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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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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2021’s Auld Lang Syne

In her book The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change, Pauline Moss detailed her thoughts on ‘loss.’ There were often no bodies, and thus no rituals for mourning. Rather than being tied to a specific event such as a vehicle accident or heart attack, losses from cancer, dementia, COVID-19 frequently extended through weeks or years. Every day deepened in ways that grievers could not register. Could such experiences even be considered losses? Boss coined a term to define the unclear (and often unacknowledged) absences as ‘ambiguous loss(s).’ First, 2021 was filled with loss, including my father, ex-wife, and ex-mother-in-law died. Next, my parent’s dog Skip followed my father’s death in August. And last, my ex-wife’s brother entered jail on Christmas Eve for securities violation. All of this was before my own perceived physical loss. Now that I’ve become aware, I sense father and son are eerily connected.

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Chopsticks

“Chopsticks,” I murmured to myself. Six months ago, I could use chopsticks so well no one would have known I had medical issues. However, last Friday, I could barely manage to hold and align chopsticks. Everyone looked at me out of the corner of their eye. Smiling embarrassing so, I shifted to laugh it off, “Chopsticks.” Chopsticks wasn’t the word I wanted to use: I wanted to cuss. I wanted to shout, “F**k it” or “God damn it.” However, in the civility of dinner, I muttered, “Chopsticks.”

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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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Nurses spoke of seeing a middle-aged woman who showed up each day, sat at the same table, ate her lunch, sipped some coffee, and left several hours later. After several weeks, speculation centered upon romance – that perhaps a kind doctor struck so profoundly, she returns every day, hoping to meet. Or, may she was hoping to remember. Unless one asked, no one knew the actual reason.

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About Luck

A few hours ago, I found a box of old pictures. The first picture had to be twenty years old and looked like someone else. “Wow, I’ll never be that person again.” Followed by, “Yeah, that person does not have death shadowing my every movement.” Still, when others are seen enjoying activities without reservation, I do not become overly nostalgic. Sure, I once enjoyed running, playing football, or swimming, but I know those I see will one day be like me, someone for whom the bells have either tolled or will toll.

Admittedly, I have thrived where others have not. (Or, I have thrived up to this point.) I could claim that my ability was due to modern medicine or that I was such a physical specimen that my body was bound to overcome anything thrown at it. But the reality is likely to involve a good dose of luck. I hear this all the time when walking the ICU. If one dies, a lack of luck is blamed. “Ma’am, we did our best, but his luck ran out.” If one survives, ‘luck’ is stated differently, “Ma’am, we’re unsure why he survived, but a lot of things worked in his favor.”

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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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“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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