Dec 5, 2007

Life and Living It

Life and living it
We use words like "Strange" and "Weird" and "Ironic" all too often these days. Well, I do. I've noticed that most other people don't tend to use very many words at all anymore. So you'll forgive me if I say that it's strange how the gears of reality and coincidence drive each other on in the world around us.
I responded to a message from one of our friends and I mistakenly blathered on in a vein that really had little to do with her intended point. She advised me of the misunderstanding and I apologized for the failure in protocol and attempted to set the record, as it were, straight. I was railing on about diseases of youth and the general idiocy that most people exhibit before they come to terms with being an adult human on planet Earth but she was referring to a much more serious matter. Namely: Mortality.
The irony didn't strike me at the time but as I went about the daily obligations of my life, I had a few moments in which to ruminate darkly on the nature of her concern and I again felt the pang of her words. She was asking the general question that we all ask eventually: Why? And it's a good question and one that certainly deserves an answer but I doubt very much if any kind of acceptable answer will ever be forthcoming from any reliable source.
God kills with impunity and there's nothing we can do about it. That's what makes him God. When we're young we don't dwell very much on our inevitable fate because it's easy to ignore it when you feel invincible. And maudlin concepts like doom, failure and death have no place in the world of hope and good intentions. But as the years creep slowly by we become more and more acquainted with our own mortality because the closer it gets the more we feel it out there and we all know that there will be no hiding from it. It will find us. All of us. The moment you realize and accept the inevitability of your own death is the very moment you begin to die. Or maybe I should defer to Bob Dylan in this instance and offer his famous quote: "He not busy being born is busy dying." Yes. That's much better. It's hard to beat Bob in the succinct eloquence department.
I suppose that recent events have honed and sharpened my focus on this issue and I've grown to hate the smell of hospitals. I've often heard of the Stench of Death and I can't help but imagine that it smells a lot like a hospital in the dead of night. Trust me; you'll never have a real appreciation for how dreadful a place a hospital can be until you find yourself roaming its halls all night because you can't sleep. It has an eerie kind of semi-quiet that permeates your mind and makes you wonder what's really going on behind all those doors. And you know what it is: Human Misery, suffering, the cold fear of the last breath as they lie there waiting to feel the sinister and unwelcome touch of the icy black hand of Death. And this eerie silence will weigh you down like somebody draped a wet blanket around your shoulders and it is very oppressive. Until, that is, the silence is shattered by the sudden call to action on behalf of one of the patients. A harsh, tinny voice calling the fateful words "Code Blue" over the speaker system and then a flurry of feet in motion and a stretcher blasts down the hall and blows right past you as you step aside quickly to let it go by like a burst of dirty thunder. You see it in the eyes as they pass: Certainty. It is inescapable. Death will find us and that fact is as ever-present as the Stars and as certain as…well...the Grave.
It's always difficult to deal with Death as an abstract concept precisely because it is so abstract. And it's the one trial in Life that everyone will have to face alone. Death can take on a whole new meaning when it strikes closer to home; the shocking death of the young who go before their time is due, the loss of an elderly aunt in another state…yes. But death is another thing again when you see it happening right before your eyes. It is hard to get around the fact that you can watch a person go from being strong, capable and filled with life to being weak, sick and trembling with the uneasy knowledge that they have little time left to manage. And when you know that they know it gets even worse. What can you say to them? All you can do is be there and it's always impossible to get any rest in one of those hospital chairs while you sit up through the long watches and wonder what your life will be like when they're finally gone. Who will give you advice? Who will tell you when you're acting foolish? Who will you call when your heart is broken? Who will fix it?
Well, I suppose this thing is getting a little too uneasy so I'll move on and let somebody else take the controls. But I guess we all have to deal with this issue some time or sooner and it's probably the hardest nut there is to crack, so don't let it rankle too much. I just wish that we didn't have to see it. News of death should always come on the fly, while you're seated around a big table filled with friends and with plenty of wine and somebody breezes in says "Oh, did you hear about so-and-so? Well he died last night." Then there could a respectable silence and we could all get back to what's really important.
And I'd like to offer yet another apology to our friend for not hearing what she was really saying. I'll try to keep my soap-box better hidden in the future.
And as to the question behind it all: Why? Well, as bad as I hate clich├ęs, I guess the best answer to why people die is because they have to. It's the only way to get out of here. If you want to go looking for the justice and meaning in it, don't; you won't find any.

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