Saturday, July 12, 2008

Covering Death with Dying

I don't think about death very often. At least not that searing, gut-wrenching, tear-you-open kind of thinking. I think about it more in the abstract; more in a detached, witness kind of way. I hold out death and look at it occasionally, but I see it through a cloudy snowglobe instead of touching the real wetness of it.

It's easier and much less messy that way.

During the grueling three years I spent watching my grandfather's life slowly melt into a hospital bed, I didn't really connect with the death part of his dying. I knew that each whoosh of his respirator was bringing death closer, but that was only the dying part, not the death part. I spent more than a year of nights in a blue leather chair at the foot of his bed waiting either for death or for the miracle that would stand him back up. He was sure it was coming—that miraculous day when he would be back on the farm surveying his acres and watching the fields turn white all ready for harvest. So I played along when he talked of the future and obsessively pondered my mortality when he feel back to sleep. I thought a lot about dying, I just avoided thinking about death.

And his death didn't change my thinking that much. It might be because I didn't witness the actual event. I was there again for the dying when they took off the respirator and unhooked the machines, but the death part happened 20 minutes after my mother and I finally left for a while to get some sleep. Ironic, yet somehow àpropos. It was really the dying I understood anyway.

Tonight I learned my friend's mother is sick. They are talking of time-frames and last trips and quality of life. So I told her this dying part wasn't for real. They've made a mistake. They have been known to be wrong. They don't know what they are saying.

When really it's me; I don't know what to say. I will cover up death with the dying.


DeLaina said...

Poignant and beautifully written. I love the snow globe imagery.

Anonymous said...

Nice morosity. Nothing like a nice slap in the face of reality once in a while to make you go hmmmm.