Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Living for dying

One of the biggest things I've noticed in the last few weeks is that a whole lot more of my time than normal is being focused on death and dying. I'm not desensitized to it yet, so all of the focus is really taking a toll on me emotionally. I'm still crying during videos in Death and Dying class, and I'm finding myself being particularly sensitive in other aspects of my life too as death and dying carry over.

This will be the hardest part, I think. I'm not trained yet in how to handle the emotional parts of the death process. And, I really believe that I have not yet come to terms with my own death yet. A few weeks ago I began to touch on this realization on I Am What I Am, but that was just the start. I find myself imagining it sometimes, thinking about my own death or that of someone close to me, and I need to stop myself. It's unhealthy for me at this point to spend so much time contemplating my own death. Of course, I always remind myself too that I could die on the way to work tomorrow, or tonight in my sleep, or three seconds from now. Or now.

Andrew Olmsted is dead. He's a guy I never met or knew, but he gave a message to a friend to post to his blog in the event of his death---and then he went and died.

He writes:

I write this in part, admittedly, because I would like to think that there's at least a little something out there to remember me by. Granted, this site will eventually vanish, being ephemeral in a very real sense of the word, but at least for a time it can serve as a tiny record of my contributions to the world. But on a larger scale, for those who knew me well enough to be saddened by my death, especially for those who haven't known anyone else lost to this war, perhaps my death can serve as a small reminder of the costs of war. Regardless of the merits of this war, or of any war, I think that many of us in America have forgotten that war means death and suffering in wholesale lots. A decision that for most of us in America was academic, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, had very real consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. Yet I was as guilty as anyone of minimizing those very real consequences in lieu of a cold discussion of theoretical merits of war and peace. Now I'm facing some very real consequences of that decision; who says life doesn't have a sense of humor?

In his formatting, the phrase "very real consequences" appears at the beginning of three successive lines and it almost reads like poetry. Whether or not that was intentional I have no idea, but it works really well.

So, dying. It's going to become my life. My livelihood. I will get paid and live because people die. I will profit from the loss of someone's mother, sister, child, father, husband. Until I desensitize to that fact (at least in theory--I don't ever want to become desensitized to death *really*), this is going to be a long road.


shokkou said...

Have you read Stiff by Mary Roach? She's very informative and funny and has an excellent view on the husk that remains after the person leaves it. I think that it's exactly what you need to read right now.

Kelly said...

I own it (of course...are there any books I don't own?) and I started reading it this last summer. You're right--she's hilarious and very honest about everything. I'm a fan. I also read Spook, another book by her on the paranormal. Quite cool. And you're right--revisiting Stiff (and finishing it) is totally what the doctor ordered.