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Edge of Life

>> Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Photo:Kira Perov

There is a Persian restaurant on the ground floor of the building where I live, which has been running ever since I came to this place. The father was running the business, had a good looking wife and two children. The young boy was real handsome and never wasted any opportunity to put the gift to use. He had his BMW coupe always parked at the front of the restaurant. The prettiest looking girls in the area could be seen in that car.  I had witnessed many pretty girls hanging on to his shoulders and smooching him in the lift and had often wondered what I was doing at that age, burning the night candles and roaming around the medical wards carrying the feces and urine of patients.

The father died five years back due to a heart attack. The son had to take over the business and had to spend part of his precious time to take care of the restaurant, which otherwise would have been lavished on the lovely girls. I would say, he was a nice boy, was always cheerful and polite when ever I had the reason to interact with him. After I changed the job, I had seen less of him, and recently I saw his car parked behind the building with a” for sale” board. I asked the watchman why he was selling the car and he was surprised.

“Doctor, didn’t you really know that the boy died last month?”

That was too unexpected.

“Tell me more, “I said.

It appeared that the boy had a cancer in the abdomen which was already late when diagnosed, underwent a resection of his stomach and intestine, had a feeding tube and a catheter for the rest of his remaining few months. Malik , our watchman told me that the boy would still smile at him and explain all the details of his illness. He was planning to go to Europe for another surgery when he died.

I honestly never gave dying too much thought. Death was almost a regular event I had witnessed in the ICU. Some patients would be brought in and would be dead even before they had the time to think about it. I honestly do not know what happens to them after they are intubated and placed on a support system. Others would know they don’t have much time. Men and women would uniformly cry out the same slogan..” moath..moath”  ( death..death.) as if they were seeing it approaching them. And on most occasions, they were right. They had seen something….whatever had taken their lives.

Each phase of dying is different than the next, but all with the same outcome; all from different perspectives. 

All emotions can be broken down to Fear or Love.

It certainly gives me much to think about and contemplate.  What would I want to say to my family and friends; what would I need them to know before I left?  Would I be afraid?  Would my belief be strong enough to see me through the final moments of my last breaths without fear?  All of which are really great questions.  And, if you think about it …so many people get taken away from this earth without the luxury of time and contemplation of these ever so important things.

I wish all people had the opportunity to pack up their bags, as if they were leaving for the airport. Do the final checking...all documents...all papers...money...handover the house to those who are not on the trip ..Giving tips to the servants...All done in time.

The saying ‘living each day like it’s your last’ has a lot more meaning to me these days.  The small space which used to occupy my mind with loss and regrets has no place there anymore.  Should you ever need a reminder of how great a life you have, do yourself a favor and visit a Palliative health facility filled with those  with no purpose left to them, other than counting days or go down to the Regional Cancer Centre and wander the corridors of the Pediatric ward, looking at the faces of parents so distraught and exhausted and the kids so sick and desperate for a day without the reality they face. 

Most of us spend the best years of life living for others. We all have reasons. Getting married...and then living for her interests than yours. Bringing up children and working hard to seeing them through school and college...even to see them getting married and spend the entire life’s balance for that sake. Make their lives easier.

Some people are just meant to live for others. There's nothing wrong with it. After 50 years of doing so, you can't just all of a sudden think solely about you.

I just remembered a very powerful sentence in a wonderful book, "The Gift of an Ordinary Day," by Katrina Kenison. She said, “As soon as I stop wishing for things to be different, I am met by the beauty of what is.”
So isn’t it true that we spend much time  wishing for things to be different? 

How hard it is to stop wishing for things to be different? What if we were able to say, “This is what I have to deal with right now? This is what is happening. Let me stay right here and pay attention. It’s OK if I feel angry, embarrassed, impatient, bewildered, disappointed, and afraid." Imagine just staying in that feeling and taking responsibility for it.

We want to retaliate, blame, find an answer, sweep the moment away and forget. “The beauty of what is” might not actually be beautiful, but when I can stay with what is and accept it, something beautiful happens.
Truly, the art of dying teaches us the art of living.  And if we were to spend some time in the reality that  we will all one day leave this planet; either slowly with time to prepare or quickly without that luxury, the truth is we would be much better people.  We would live as we were meant to …caring about the important things like love, compassion and happiness.  We would prepare, we would communicate and we would die with a lot less regret and those left behind us, would be better equipped to let us go.

Jim Emerson blog


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