Wednesday, January 19, 2011

On A Personal Note...

After a lingering illness that took his mind, his bodily functions, his personality, and his dignity, the husk that used to be my brother in law finally lost his life.   Within a year, I have lost a brother suddenly, and a brother in law slowly.   I’m feeling quite mortal these days.

I had a friend who contemplated suicide a few years ago.  She was in her mid 30’s, widowed, suffering from depression; she quite rationally looked at the possibility of 30-50 years of pain and suffering, and nearly ended it.  She has not told me what stayed her hand; I once thought it was the realization that, whatever this life holds, it is “better than nothing”, and that is the choice.  Watching my brother in law, I realize how naïve I was to think that.  

It is perhaps understandable that I have been watching Christopher Hitchens as he fights his cancer.  He has retained his intellect, his wit, his self, through great pain, discomfort, weakness, and cancer’s best attempts to steal his dignity.  Storms, landslides, illnesses, lunatics with weapons… there are so many different ways to die, and none of us get out alive.  ... I'm not going anywhere with this, just free associating.  Like I said, I'm feeling mortal.  Hug your loved ones.  

If you ever get the chance to visit me in the hospital (very unlikely, I’ll grant you), bring me the oldest bottle of scotch you can find, and a bottle of pain pills.   If you can talk me into taking both, then it’s likely for the best.  If I refuse the pills, have a drink with me, and we can have a great talk. 

And visit frequently.  Just in case.

Oh, yeah, right, a verse…

There once was a man who, with pride,
Said he’d never let dreams go untried—
So he spent ninety years
Building hopes, taming fears,
And then—far, far too early—he died.

This post is likely not going to stay up for long.  I just had to say something somewhere.  So if it vanishes, it doesn't mean you were hallucinating.  Or, to be honest, that you were not.


Brad Fallon said...

Life is good for those who value it. Just be strong, all of these are challenges.:)

Anonymous said...

Just take it one day at a time. That's all any of us can do.

Cuttlefish said...

Thanks, both of you--

I sound a bit more dramatic than I meant to. I'm not even depressed at this death, really. He has not been "him" for some time; this end is a very good thing, and a much needed closure for my sister in law. That does not make it easy for anyone, but we all die, so I can't wish it would not happen--I can only be glad his, and my sis-in-law's, suffering is over. Well, this part of it is over for her; I know there is a new chapter of the suffering book that opens for her now. But while I mourn him, I am not at all sad that his body has finally caught up to his mind.

Porky said...

I really hope you decide to leave it up. There's something valuable here, and many who would be glad to know they are not alone; not by a long chalk.

Thinker said...

“Hug your loved ones.”


Thank you for sharing this, and as others have said, please keep this post up.

Last year, a friend of mine lost her brother to a suicide, a few months after having “lost” her father to a stroke and dementia which left him very difficult to communicate with. Seeing her anguish and (unfounded) guilt have caused me to reflect a great deal on how good a life I actually have and to procrastinate less, especially when it comes to spending time with those I love. (That it has also at times made me feel completely inadequate at supporting a friend is a different matter.)

We will probably never feel regret at having given others too many hugs. Don’t wait!

While your plans for the Future allow
Preparation of What, When and How,
And as such they are great,
They cannot compensate
For a hug in the Here and the Now!

Johnny Vector said...

At times like that I always turn to Walt Kelley. "Don't take life so serious. It ain't nohow permanent."

L.Long said...

Laugh at life and death everyday.
It pisses g0d off

Anna O'Connell said...

{{{Digital Cuttlefish}}}

My sympathy on this most recent loss you've experienced in your family. And especially to your sister-in-law, who may be feeling guilty that she feels relief along with her grief. (I have been there, done that, losing my first spouse to inoperable cancer when he was 30 and I was 27.)

I also lost my father to Alzheimer's some years before his body actually succumbed to death. Observing that kind of process is very difficult, and might tend to make one think deep thoughts about what you would or would not want to happen to yourself in similar circumstances. Please go ahead and react in print; it gives your readers something to think about an a reminder to cherish their loved ones while it's possible to do so.

Anonymous said...

When I was 16, I watched my father suffer a slow, incredibly painful, dignity-shredding dissolution of body and mind. The sheer awfulness of his death still haunts me now and again, but the lesson it taught me is ever-present: Embrace life. Now.

Hug your loved ones, indeed. And, if I may, hug everyone you admire and appreciate for whatever joy they bring into your life - even if that joy consists in the littlest thing, like the occasional tidbit of insightful, clever doggerel that brightens your day.


I have my maudlin days, too. But I try to cultivate an air of defiance instead, most of the time. It keeps the shadows at bay. Mostly.

Jeff Hawkins said...

Thank you for sharing. Please consider keeping this post, as I also value it, and I suspect many others do as well.
Even when a person's death seems desired, expected, and welcomed, we still grieve for the loss.
Perhaps you would like to read a verse I wrote:
When Grandpa Left His House

When Grandpa left his house for the very last time, he didn’t wear his shoes: he left them both behind.
His canning had been all put up, his children were all grown,
We stood together watching, each one quite alone.

We each had known just what to do, and been so helpful for each other, calm and quiet, strong and silent, the sisters and the brothers.
But now the crisis was completed, no more brave smiles were needed here.
As Grandpa left the house once more, every eye was blurred with tears.

We watched with empty hands as he began this journey, out into a stranger’s truck, upon a narrow gurney.
Rolling out to the drive, his body bounced, grotesquely jostled
and all our tears released at once, as if they had been bottled.

How could a man who was so strong, never sappy, never wrong, neither crying nor showing tears, and never showing any fears ...
How is it that he reduced us all to an ache, a sob, a croaking moan?
How could he have gripped our hearts so tightly in his own?

Cuttlefish said...


Thank you for that, Jeff.

Beautiful, even through tears.

Greta Christina said...

Sweetie, I am so sorry. A death can be a welcome relief from suffering, and still cause grief. And you've really been through it lately, haven't you? Know that we're with you, in non-supernatural spirit if not the flesh.

Cuttlefish said...

Just realized that when I thanked Jeff, I had neglected to thank six others!

Thank you all... Ok, I will leave it up, but now I wish I had actually taken the time to do more than just ramble. It means a great deal to me, to read your own stories and be part of a... I don't know, a community of grief? That's not quite right, but a community that shares a painful experience, and cannot or does not pretend it is other than what it is.

Greta, thank you. I really hope I get a chance to give you a Cuttlefish hug some day. Extra arms means extra hugginess. Trust me, it's a good thing.

Clare said...

I'm with you on the scotch and pills. Having seen a grandparent lose her self and her memory of who I was before she died makes me adamant that I don't want to go that way.
I just wanted to repeat what others have said. Please leave this post up. Sometimes raw words are needed. This was a powerful piece of writing.

The Ridger, FCD said...

My mother took six years to die. At the end she was bed-ridden and body-locked. She may have been fully aware - I hope not.

I hold you in my heart, Cuttle.