The Lies We Tell About Dying

When the most successful author of the past 10 generation says you need to write every story and every post with one person in mind you take it to heart.

Because there is no reason to reinvent the wheel it is practical and sensible to follow this rule even when you are someone who is willing to break every other.

I know something about death and dying that goes deeper than pop culture references or the words printed in the classics and pulp fiction.

Been to more than a few funerals of contemporaries and older people, enough to know the truth of the show must go on.

That is not said with any particular inflection of sadness or joy nor is it supposed to be sterile. It is an observation and comment.

The Lies We Tell About Dying

I wrestle with the boundaries of blogging and struggle with how much to share here.

Not because of how I feel but because there are others who may not want my to reveal all I know or believe.

My maternal grandfather was almost 97 when he died, not of old age but a broken heart. He spent 18 months here without grandma and decided he had enough.

During the last couple years of his life we met frequently for lunch and discussed everything and anything you can think about.

It was bittersweet for him, living as long as he did.

He found great joy in watching his family grow and expand but found losing friends to be a mixed bag.

“Josh, at this stage of the game I am never surprised to hear someone died. If they were in pain I am happy they aren’t any more, but it is not pleasant to realize see all of the people who were important leave.”

That was tempered by watching his great-grandchildren grow.

“You and your sisters are old news now, but those kids are something else.”

It was always said with a smile and I always knew it wasn’t personal. My own father would sometimes call and tell me he needed the chauffeur to bring his grandchildren over.

I’d roll my eyes at him and then watch my children be given license to do the very thing that would have made him ground me.

****

Some friends and family encouraged me to have as many conversations with dad as I could before chemo started.

“You don’t know what it will do or how long you have got. You don’t know if it will make him fuzzy or if he’ll need to be too medicated to talk.”

I listened to what they said and remembered prior experiences with people I loved going through terminal illnesses.

Moments of the past jumped out at me because I experienced losing the opportunity to have real conversations with people before they died.

It didn’t mean I didn’t try to tell them the things I thought were critical to share or that they didn’t hear but they couldn’t respond in the way I hoped for.

Perhaps that is selfish and or childish of me, but it is the truth. I thought and still believe I was heard but I would have liked for them to say they did.

I wanted the certainty of knowing they knew how I felt and I wanted them to know I was still there.

Maybe that is my own feeling about dying coming out and maybe it is what I hope for regarding me, but I can’t say for certain.

Instead I say no one has spent any time talking about what will come and when. The medical folks have been reticent to offer any sort of timeline or to offer suggestions/resources to prepare for after.

Maybe that is appropriate given where things are and done because it is more important to keep hopes high at this stage or maybe it is something else.

Fragments

That author who says we ought to write to one person might be interested to know I have been doing that for years.

I have done so regardless of whether I thought they would read what I vomited onto the pages for no reason other than just because.

Every now and then I have engaged in reflection about the pros and cons and doing so.

Sometimes it is because it is interesting to think about my writing process and consider ways to improve and sometimes it is because they pissed me off.

When they earned my anger I asked if they deserved to be the independent reader or if someone else merited that particular honor.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter because I have never told them I generally think of them when I am writing or that I do so regardless of topic.

Some of the prep work has been completed and other parts remain.

There is a growing list inside my head of what those things are and I am actively working on some because I figure whatever I can do now will make later a little bit easier.

It is a surreal feeling, this internal tick-tock in my head. It feels like it can all end any moment and yet it feels like this will all go on forever.

And there is this sense that one day I’ll look back and feel like this went way too fast.

I am trying hard to make use of all of the moments so I don’t feel like I wasted any, but I don’t know if that will be enough for me.

Don’t know I won’t still want to turn the clock back to do some things again for no reason than just because.

There might be jokers to the right of me and clowns to the left I keep pushing forward cuz I don’t know any other way.

****

The unwinding of the clock continues and I keep clawing at it, trying to pull it apart.

This frustrates me more than I can verbalize because I am built for demolition. I am way too intense for most, blessed with hands that are gifted at crushing and or shredding things.

You’d think I could bust this clock right open, rip out its guts and make time stop…but I can’t.

****

Grandpa and I are sitting on a bench outside of the Jewish Home for the aged.

“You know more about this kind of stuff than you let on. You have experienced something.”

I smile and ask if he is going to tell me what he talks to grandma about at night.

“That is my business and hers, smart-ass. I miss her. Don’t let those moments get away.”

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