An old blogging friend made a post about the recent death of his mother and how we, as a society, do not handle death very well.  It struck a cord with me.  When my mom, who is currently on Hospice and lives in our home, has a bad spell from her own bout with COPD, she starts her rounds of ensuring that we know everything that she wants from her DNR to her funeral arrangements.  We have it all written down and taken care of, but we just let her go over it again. 

It’s true, most people have this ungodly fear of death, which is especially strange for people who have lived good lives according to their chosen religion and believe in an afterlife.  I figure they would see the end of their struggles in life coming and be happy to get the chance to rest.  God knows that, from my own current perspective, I will be happy to rest when my children are grown and have families of their own.  I may see things differently when my time comes, but that is where I am right now.

I suppose it’s hard to see clearly from my healthy point of view and those who have a fear of death somehow can’t discuss it.  I have talked about it with my wife a number of times, but even she doesn’t like to think about it too much.  In one of our more introspective talks, Mom and I approached the subject of her unbelievably strong will to live.  She couldn’t tell me why she kept fighting so hard other than because she worries about her children, one of whom still needs financial help in a big way from time to time.

Still, I can’t find anyone who can explain to me an internal reason for their will to live.  Every reason is external: children, parents, spouse, etc.  Do we all live solely for the people in our lives?  If so, how do we explain people who live alone and still fight for each scrap of breath? 

I am not talking about taking one’s own life.  I understand not doing that.  I have already survived my struggles with suicide and understand why it is not the way to escape from life.  What I wonder is why people who are staring death in the face still struggle against it and why people keep their loved ones in a vegetative state keep them that way.  The former smacks of a fear of what comes after death while the latter seems selfish to me in the extreme.

Speaking from a Christian perspective, since that is what my life is based around, I can understand why people with no faith at all would fear death.  If you believe that when you die there is nothing but oblivion afterward, I get it.  I would be terrified, too.  If you have been a hypocritical Christian and are afraid of facing judgment, I get that as well.  My mother has led, as far as I know, one of the kindest lives I know.  If anyone should be given a pass through the Gates of Heaven, it is her. 

That said, I can’t understand why she would not want to go there.  Her work is done and her body is giving out.  As painful as it is for me to watch, it is hell for her to endure.  Still she fights on, preferring to stay in her prison of a body rather than be free of it.  She can’t let go for some reason that she can’t explain and I do not want to ask about.  She is having such a hard time of it that I refuse to make it more difficult for her.

That leads me to persistent vegetative states.  Wow.  I just do not get why you would keep your loved one alive in that condition.  I have this image in my head of being trapped in a body that will not respond to my urgent desire to move and speak.  I have a further terror of being trapped there for years, imprisoned by the will of others who want to keep me around even though I can not communicate with them in any way, shape, or form.  Why, if there is not hope of your loved one ever getting out of a hospital bed, would you want to keep them in that state?  Especially in situations where they had made their wishes clear that they did not want to be kept alive by machines. 

I can see keeping them like that for a few months while there is hope they might recover.  Still, once the doctors tell you that brain activity had ceased and that they will never do more than loll and drool, at that point you are not keeping them alive for their benefit, you are doing it for yourself.  I don’t understand it at all.

That’s enough rambling for now.


“Writing is making sense of life. You work your whole life and perhaps you’ve made sense of one small area.”

~ Nadine Gordimer


Listening to: Ingrid Michaelson – The Way I Am