Ashes to ashes…

June 15, 2015

in medical, Self Awareness

thI’ve been thinking abut mortality lately. Mostly mine, but other peoples too. When I was in the hospital I had two moments where I “went there” in my head. Those thoughts, on any given day, can be a road that leads to isolation and fear, but when you are in the hospital , well, they are even more pronounced. I think because my parents died earlier than most and I have been faced with death I am more aware of my mortality. I’m not scared of dying, but I am very scared about not living life to it’s fullest.

I guess I am an optimist when it comes to death.

I want to live my life within every single moment of every single day. I don’t want my last thoughts to be “I wish I would have done…” I want to do it when I am alive and well. And yes, I do think about death. How can I not? My parents are gone, I’ve had more than my fair share of “oh crap” biopsies. But at some point you have to choose to be either paralyzed by the thought of death or be motivated by it.

I choose to be motivated by it.

I can remember very clearly the first time I was scared about dying. I was in the hospital, I had a fever that kept going up and I had a lot of concerned doctors and nurses milling about, taking blood, hooking me up to an exorbitant amount of antibiotics and talking about necrotic tissue and whether or not I could physically handle another surgery “if I had to.” I remember thinking, this is it. This is how it’s going down. I’m going to die because I can’t poop.

I know it sounds funny now, but then, uh, not so much.

I was terrified of another surgery. I was freaked out by staph infections and colostomy bags. I realize now, it was just the fear of what I had gone through that was stimulating the fear over my fever. But still. At that time it was really easy to picture how badly everything could have ended up being.

Focus on the words, could have.

I could have had to have another surgery. I could have had a colostomy bag. I could have died from infection.

But I didn’t. And honestly, I probably wasn’t going to, but at that moment the fear made me believe that I really could have.

The second time was a little more scary. My NG tube punctured something and without warning blood came spurting up out of everywhere. Nurses are like flight attendants, there is no need to panic unless you see them panic and if they do, by all means join in. They worked quickly, swiftly and within seconds my room was filled with an xray machine, doctors and a crash cart. It was a surreal and helpless moment as I lay there why they frantically tried to figure out where the bleeding was coming from (and they still don’t know, probably scratched something in my esophagus because for the next few weeks I had trouble swallowing and talking, but we will probably never really know for sure.) Again, at that moment, with the coordinated chaos happening around me, I went there. Staring straight up and not being able to move as they feverishly talked about transfusions, controlling my airway and emergency tracheotomies.

And as soon as it started, it was over. I could breath, the bleeding stopped and everything was hunky dory.

And I have to say, I was in no way shape or form in any real danger of dying in any of these instances. I just felt that despair. That helplessness. The lack of control. The exhaustion. The frustration. I felt it all, right then and there, and those feelings over rode every sense I had.

Someone recently said to me “once you lose the fear over dying, you start living.” I’m not sure if she made it up or someone else did, but it is so true. We will all die at some point. Some people will die through tragic circumstance, others way to young, some will live until old age. You never know how or when you are going to leave this world. That’s why I choose to make the most of it. Someday my number will come up and it won’t be a false alarm, it’ll be the real deal. I want to be ready for that moment, not just mentally prepared, but with leaving with no regrets. It sounds stupid and very cliché, but it’s so true.

Carpe Diem.

1 Laurel June 16, 2015 at 3:44 am

I like this. I will say that fear of dying and making the most of life can live together. I’ve always been preoccupied with death, infinity and the afterlife:) It’s so overwhelming to think of it all in humanistic terms (a priest told me that, somewhat impatiently, when I was very young and kept asking him impossible questions on these subjects). Unlike many in my family, I don’t want to die; I don’t want to shorten my life. Also, like many in my family and life, I want to live a good and long life although quality over quantity is the overriding theme. I think it’s okay to be afraid. I think it’s natural to have sad moments when thinking-maybe I won’t be here next year at this time due to a prognosis or recent health scare. I think the impetus is to use this to live-to YOLO. As one of my doctor’s said to me recently, “we could leave here right now and get hit by a bus so live your life, don’t go into major debt but live it.” Oddly enough, I found some comfort in this as I do in the words and actions of my friends (present company included).
I lost my parents very young and 3 months apart and under very tragic circumstances. Since then I have lost a lot of family and some friends, tragically and sadly (as I know you have). It doesn’t make anything better. It’s sad. It makes death AND living more real as it is in your face.
I think everyone has a journey and a way that they cope. It’s all about coping and trying to live your life in the moment-It doesn’t mean one isn’t human and doesn’t think of the other side and doesn’t worry about their own health and mortality and that of their loved ones. That’s just normal. It’s not dwelling, it’s acknowledging, processing and living. Dwelling is using situations as an excuse to not live and that’s not a quality of life at all.
Choosing to focus on the present is best but of course one is human and will always remember the close calls and those that didn’t win that battle.
Thanks for sharing this:)

2 Sandi June 16, 2015 at 10:54 am

Lola- That’s the beauty of it. Anyone can deal with life/death anyway they want too. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer, it is simply what works for you. Losing a friend so suddenly really made me think “what if” and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Anytime I have an opportunity to reflect on my life and think about how I am living it, that’s good. It means I am aware that “what if” today was my last day? I am learning to embrace the check and balance of mortality. It makes you live your life fuller and more honestly. Keep on living! That’s my motto!

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