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TOPIC: Death and Dying

Death and Dying 26 Dec 2019 02:04 #111963

When I was injured and ill for a good length of time the other year I found there were quite specific fears or discomforts I hadn't considered before:

-the vulnerability of being unable to walk well, with a risk of falling if I were jostled in a crowd, or an inability to move with agility to get out of the way of an errant car or bicycle. I felt deeply unsafe outside the house. I think some degree of the physical incapacity was an expression of the feeling unsafe, actually. Sort of a vicious circle.

-there was a humiliation to fight in going to doctors for each of the little infirmities that piled up. There was a great deal of good that came from working through that and coming to find doctor's I liked and trusted and to come to see them as 'teammates' in getting me back on my feet.

-humiliation in the eyes of family, especially as my family was really into physical fitness and I had learned at a deep level that people who are fat, sick, injured etc are moral failures and to be disdained and criticized. Ironically my dear mom is now confronting the same deeply held belief as she deals with knee problems that prevent her from exercising... 'but I take care of myself!' she protests, as if the knee problems are only inflicted on 'bad' people.

-realizing how dependent we are on each other in a concrete way. Spiritual stuff like 'interdependence' or 'community' can be romanticized or abstract...but I realized how much I need the people who help me day to day. And how much my fondness for 'independence' is tangled with fear of intimacy, mistrust of other people, etc. Just something like relying on the sessions with the physical therapist to help me walk again. I didn't want to feel reliant on her. But the fact is she's on my team, and the progress I've made with her keen eye and creative exercise routines is far beyond what I could have done alone.

Anyway those things come to mind.

Oh, I forgot one more. That is a sort of revulsion when the body is disfigured by disease or injury. I found it 'gross' and revolting, and something that needed 'practicing' with.
Last Edit: 26 Dec 2019 02:23 by Ona Kiser.
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Death and Dying 26 Dec 2019 09:09 #111964

For the most part, science has enabled death to be relatively comfortable, although I am sure that is a pretty sweeping statement.

Sweeping statement indeed! Whoever wrote that probably wasn't considering much beyond physical pain. What science has done, at least from my perspective, is prolong our dance with death. One example, admittedly biased: my father-in-law, a pilot in the U.S. Airforce who served two tours of duty in Vietnam, was dying of the various diseases engendered by exposure to Agent Orange (COPD and several cancers among them). The doctors kept him on a ventilator for month after month after month. He couldn't eat, couldn't talk, couldn't get out of bed. When they finally took him off the thing, he raised both hands in the "thumbs up" sign and passed away within a few minutes. The more I experience the death of loved ones and friends the more interested I become in not having a drawn-out death. Western medicine is a godsend to those of us who have access to it but a curse when it goes beyond being humane in the name of keeping us alive.
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Death and Dying 26 Dec 2019 14:22 #111966

Chris Marti wrote:
For the most part, science has enabled death to be relatively comfortable, although I am sure that is a pretty sweeping statement.

Sweeping statement indeed! Whoever wrote that probably wasn't considering much beyond physical pain. What science has done, at least from my perspective, is prolong our dance with death. One example, admittedly biased: my father-in-law, a pilot in the U.S. Airforce who served two tours of duty in Vietnam, was dying of the various diseases engendered by exposure to Agent Orange (COPD and several cancers among them). The doctors kept him on a ventilator for month after month after month. He couldn't eat, couldn't talk, couldn't get out of bed. When they finally took him off the thing, he raised both hands in the "thumbs up" sign and passed away within a few minutes. The more I experience the death of loved ones and friends the more interested I become in not having a drawn-out death. Western medicine is a godsend to those of us who have access to it but a curse when it goes beyond being humane in the name of keeping us alive.

In fact, that is one of the basic premises of the book: that science can prolong life "relatively pain free" way past when it should because our culture is "death-phobic". Doing anything heroic to prolong life is seen as the right thing to do. I would be really interested in your take on the book, because I *think* it is on the same page as you, despite my poor characterization of it.
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Death and Dying 26 Dec 2019 18:24 #111967

Here is one of the reviews of "Die Wise" on Amazon.com:

Die Wise is a powerful and uncompromising testament to the way things have gone wrong in our society, and to the great debt we have all forgotten for the privilege of being here. This is a beautiful book. It is full of the heart-wrenching realities that we fail to acknowledge as a society, in the treatment of our death and the deaths of our loved ones. Stephen Jenkinson has an incisive wisdom that is conveyed through a poet's eyes. Still, he maintains the unflinching determination to say what needs to be said regardless of how it will be received. We live in a society that looks to candy-coat every uncomfortable truth, and therefore gives us a free pass to extend our adolescence into our time of dying. Which means that we never see our death, the deaths of others, or have the maturity to honor death for what it is. In this book, Stephen Jenkinson asks us to look at the roots of our perpetually adolescent-minded society so that we can see how deeply it impacts us and the world we live in. It is a call to action that demands that we begin acknowledging and honoring all of our relations in the greater scheme of things, which is to say that we realize that Life means more than just "my life." We are well into the waning arc of the civilization that has birthed and sustained us, it is a time for learning to grieve all that has gone unnoticed, all that has not been honored and because of it is suffering the starvation that is collectively felt and never satiated by our consumer society. It is a starvation of the Soul. While Stephen Jenkinson does not provide any answers as to how we do this, he helps us start to feel around the edges of the hole within us, where one day that Soul can be found in our future generations if we begin the work now. This book is a must read for everyone.
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Death and Dying 28 Dec 2019 14:29 #111968

My father died 2 days ago, he lived through a medically managed physical decline since a quadruple bypass and pacemaker 20 years ago. What an amazing experience he had dozens of cliff-hanging emergencies any one of which could be a typical end of life scenario. So many EMT encounters, ambulances, helicopters, emergency rooms, hospital stays with dire prognoses. But he didn't die.

Several years ago his long-time cardiologist told him to put his affairs in order. I started flying to see him more often, each time thinking it could be the last. Lots of medical intervention + uncommon luck or karma kept him bouncing back for a while between increasingly difficult spells, that were gruellingly uncomfortable and often quite painful but not enough to grind him down the way pain often can, even with morphine, to people who die from cancer. (Modern medicine prolonged my mother-in-law's life but not remotely "pain free").

My father went through the gamut of changes - emotional, psychological, spiritual, relationships - again and again. He faced his mortality and had his faced rubbed in it only to emerge and smell the roses from new perspectives time and again. The main thing that kept him going I think is that he got to live at home with my mother, they continued to enjoy each others company, she was devoted to his care and didn't want to let him go.

Finally he was ready to go and tried to fight off intervention but the hospital people would sedate him and intervene anyway. Partly I think my mother was intimidating them into it but also they really liked my Dad and when he was back, he was pretty fully back. The only dementia he seemed to have was always corrected by tweaking his 2 dozen meds.

So I can see why they may have become loathe to stop intervening. Last week though the head of the hospitals palliative care encouraged my mother to let him go to in-hospital hospice and she made the decision. He died the day after Christmas, a few days after their 68th wedding anniversary.

Because of the way my father, a protestant minister, ended up embracing this years long odyssey of disintegration, I think it became an unusual spiritual path opportunity. He rarely complained to me about it and he was usually reduced to laughter, he actually felt the mystifying humor in it.

This gave my brother and sister and me an ongoing opportunity to get more and more real and close with him. For each of us to feel like we were blessed to become "caught up and current" with him.

I think this kind of "opportunity" is unique to this narrow window of human history that will likely be closing soon, at least to people with his income.

My brother, a Baptist minister, wrote on facebook "My Dad went to be with Jesus today. Doctor said it was heart failure, but I can say he definitely passed with heart success!
Thank you Dad for showing us what a loving heart looks like!!! I know many people were touched by your heart. We all love you and will miss your jokes. We are thankful you now have joy and peace in His arms. I’m blessed to have you as my Dad"

I don't feel like my Dad is gone yet. I feel like we meditated and prayed together this morning. I hope I can remember and bring back something of what I saw sometimes, thanks to his bringing death back into my view of life.
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Death and Dying 28 Dec 2019 20:47 #111969

Sorry to hear about your dad. It sounds like he had a uniquely long introduction way to the process of dying, and it also sounds like he finally found his peace.
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Death and Dying 29 Dec 2019 11:28 #111972

My deepest condolences to you. And to echo Chris' comment, it sounds like *you* also had a uniquely long introduction into the process of dying. May that, and he, live on in you.
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Death and Dying 29 Dec 2019 16:11 #111975

Thanks for sharing that. Hugs to you.
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Death and Dying 30 Dec 2019 17:01 #111976

Deepest condolences - I hope you and your family can find a helpful perspective reflecting on the journey of his death.
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Death and Dying 08 Jan 2020 07:35 #111993

This topic may have caused me to have unsettling dreams. These dreams (and mental images) are of my father as he died in the hospital. This is not a fear of death kind of thing but a fear of not having taken the right action kind of thing. This has been gnawing at me for over two years now.
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Death and Dying 08 Jan 2020 19:06 #111995

Chris Marti wrote:
This topic may have caused me to have unsettling dreams. These dreams (and mental images) are of my father as he died in the hospital. This is not a fear of death kind of thing but a fear of not having taken the right action kind of thing. This has been gnawing at me for over two years now.

That makes sense, given what you told us. I imagine I'd feel similarly.

I regret a lot of things around my dad's death. Were it happening today I'd make many different decisions, especially spending more time with him and getting less tangled up in the nasty little dramas that spun out around him in the rest of the family.
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