Sunday, August 14, 2011

Life, The Universe, And Death

The other day I just happened to be in the same room with a guy who took that particular time to die.  I was visiting my mom in the hospital and the fellow in the bed across from her was sounding decided bad when I walked in.  I had only been there for a few minutes when his groaning and heavy breathing ceased and a nurse came in to check on him.  She left in a hurry and returned with another nurse, they called his name several times and then quickly called a Code Blue.  Now having been part of this very same type of scene several times in my paramedic days I could pretty much guess what was going on behind curtain number one.  Soon a raft of people appeared with crash cart in tow and commenced to work on him.  Through out it all my mother continued chattering away about the latest breaking stories from 1949 completely oblivious to the life and death struggle going on only eight feet from her bed. 

I could hear someone doing CPR, another person, presumably a doctor, giving orders for meds, then shortly after I heard the AED announce that "no shock was indicated", in emergency terms that either means that the person has a pulse, or they don't have one which can be helped by shocking.  Then they called the time and slowly the raft of people dwindled away.  Throughout this battle I could see the patient in the bed right next to him, he and his wife, who was visiting, sat silent and wearing that deer in the headlights look on their faces.  I am certain that it will be a story told and retold in their household for some time to come.  After all how many times in a person's life are they inches away from a drama such as this?  On the other hand when I told my mother that the guy across from her just died she was surprised that she had been so unaware of what was happening then said that she had told his son just a half hour before that they shouldn't let people go on living in that condition, and then continued on with whatever story it was that she had been telling. 

At the time I was just thinking that this incident just confirmed my theory about older folks reverting more and more to childlike behavior.  Case in point, when a person is two the world is there for them and them alone, nothing really matters except what they want, think, feel, etc. Well the same thing seems to go for seniors as well, nothing matters except what they want, think, feel, etc.  Oh I know that is a pretty broad statement, and there are many older folks who are involved, articulate, active, and vital, but there are a lot of people who just give up on the outside world and become self absorbed and oblivious.  I'm pretty sure that the reason is, is because they no longer do anything but sit around getting bored, all the interesting things which will ever happen to, or around them, have already happened so now all they have is their memories of better times, or in my mother's case, worse times.  But today as I sat thinking about this anonymous death, I realized that other than the poor traumatized couple next to this guy, no one really seemed to be all that affected, or even interested.  Death, the big equalizer of men, had visited and had been dismissed by almost everyone, even those professionals whose job it was to try and cheat him of his next victim. 

I have a theory, don't I always? I don't think that people are so hardened and calloused that they are completely unaffected by a death that occurs in such close proximity to them, I believe that it is the ultimate in denial.  We all know that eventually this ignominious death awaits us all. Most of us fear the big D more than we fear anything else, so when it slaps us where we sit a self protective mental barrier goes up so we can deal with what is happening.  Without this ability to deny and ignore I don't believe it would be possible for people to continue to function normally in our day to day lives.  Or instead of working on every day mundane jobs I think the human race would be training their best and brightest to the study of life extension. 

Certainly as a species over the years we have developed coping mechanisms to help with this problem of being sentient, religion and the promise of "happy ever after" immediately comes to mind.  Desensitization is another, how many people have you seen get killed in the movies and TV in your life?  Our lives when we finally understand that Death is waiting for us, go through the stages of denial like, "it will never happen to me," as kids, to, "I have X amount of time left before it will happen to me," as adults, "but that is a long way away."  

So whoever you were I hope you had a good life and that your legacy is that you left the world a better place in the short time you were here.  I wish that we were like Klingons so that instead of putting up our shields we could have acknowledged your passing with at least a mourning wail of tribute.  So here's to you Unknown Guy, AAAAAAArrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhh!  That is my Pastafarian pirate wail of passing for you.

Matter can never be destroyed, just altered, so now you have been reincarnated, your atoms will be dispersed back into the universe.  Say hi to Carl Sagan for me. 

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