Random equations in the mathematics of life

Posts tagged ‘death’

Dividing By Zero

8109384822_0a654b9dd4_bSo 2013 just started, and it’s got me thinking a lot about death.

No, I’m not suicidal.  And no, as occasionally tempting though it may be, I’m not killing anyone else, either.

But death has been around a lot lately, and it’s got me thinking about my own mortality.

My father-in-law has terminal cancer, and just found out that it’s spread throughout his body.  After a lifetime of smoking, drinking, along with a steadfast refusal to eat healthy, we kind of assumed that he would forego any aggressive treatment at this point.  It may buy him a few months, but at what cost to his quality of life?  Last time he was in treatment, he was told in no uncertain terms that if he chose to keep smoking and drinking, that it would kill him.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  He lit up another cigarette, swigged another beer, and flipped a metaphorical bird to anyone to challenged him.

So you can imagine our surprise when we were informed that he’d decided to pursue radiation and chemo.  For what purpose?  Reality may have set in, along with the fear of imminent death, but it’s too little, too late.  The cancer, at this point, has spread too far and been fed too generously.  There is no chance this time, of wiping it out.  The only possibility would be to delay the inevitable for a short time, leaving him sick and possibly unable to care for himself.  The ultimate slap in the face to my mother-in-law, who has spent her entire life caring for others.

His cognitive functioning is now impaired, though, so whether that decision is legally viable or not is certainly up for discussion.  (Not by me, however!)  It should be interesting to see how this plays out, though.

January also brought about the first anniversary of Jedi’s death.  Jedi was a good friend of the Ambassador, and the waves of grief that went through our house radiated for months after.  In the year since the smile of an amazing fifteen year old kid went out, the community has pulled together in little ways.  It makes me wish that the positive ripples could happen without the tragedy to poke the water.

My health issues, for now, are nowhere near debilitating or even serious.  They’re manageable though annoying, and occasionally cause me to change plans on the fly.  But what about later?  What about that eventual time when my own kids will be waiting for phone calls after I see the doctor, wondering what my choices will be and how it’ll affect their own lives?

The Scientist has a phobia of aging/dying, so any conversations about that sort of thing tend to be shut down very fast.  Years ago, in a medical ethics class, we had to draft and sign Power of Attorney and Living Will documents.  He signed them as my executor, but didn’t want to discuss the details.  I let it go, but even now he doesn’t want to hear anything about “when the time comes”.

But the fact is that at some point in our lives, that time does come.  And while no one can know what the future holds, the odds point to me being the one to have more serious health issues first, as I have some impairments now.  What to do?  When I started to explain my feelings on this, some twenty years after my initial foray into it, the conversation was shut down just as fast.  He simply doesn’t want to hear it.

I am a staunch believer in the power of choice.  I support assisted suicide for those who make the conscious, cognitively sound choice to choose when their life will end.  Suicide, when linked to depression, is one of the most painful decisions with horrific ramifications for those left behind.  But when a person’s quality of life and physical wellbeing is failing, and they make a well thought-out choice to take their leave on their own terms, I don’t really see how the trauma would be that much worse.

Death is never an easy topic to discuss.  Whether it’s our own, or that of someone we love, the loss and heartache isn’t something readily faced by most people.  But for me, I would rather not be a burden, be it physically or financially or emotionally, on the people I love.  My choice, my conscious, carefully-considered choice, is to avoid that mess.  Let me clear in this: I am not depressed.  I have no wish to harm myself or take my own life right now, or even any time soon.  I’m talking about several years down the road, when time and a life well lived has taken its toll on my physical body to the point that it breaks down.  When my dignity and my joy of existence falter, it is time for me to bid my loved ones farewell, and check out.

I fully realize that my choices are controversial, to say the least.  Many religions believe that a deity is supposed to choose my time of death for me; that it isn’t my decision, but theirs.  Really?  Well, what if the deity had decided years ago, but some heroic doctor cheated it and saved me?  Isn’t that flouting the decision as well?  I know, I know…the counter to that is that if the deity had truly decided, then the heroic doctor would’ve failed.  But I don’t necessarily buy that.  Modern medicine has extended our lives long past the end of our quality of life.  The almighty doctors can treat a disease to keep our shells intact for a while, but our souls stop being viable longer before.

I choose to be done with my physical shell when my soul is ready to fly away.  As a believer in reincarnation, I figure I’ll be back anyhow, so it isn’t that big a deal.

We treat death as if it is a horrific thing to be avoided and feared at all costs, rather than just the next step in our cycle.  I refuse to do this.  While I have no desire to have lunch with the Grim Reaper any time soon, I also have no desire to sit outside my body as a spirit, just waiting for someone to finally stop trying to scrape together a few more minutes.  When the time comes that I make the decision, I will share it with a few trusted people.  I will gather my friends and family to celebrate my life, and I will convey the love I have for each and every person I value.

But after that, I will peacefully make my way into the next realm.  I will take the hand of those who have gone before, I will kiss the ones I leave behind, and smiling with the joy of a life well-lived, I will go quietly into that good night.

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The effects of subtracting one

My kids tell me that I brag about them too much.  I’m sure my friends would probably agree.  Know what?  They are absolutely right.  I do brag about my kids.  I’d like to tell you why, and encourage you to do it, too.

Consider, if you will, this website, which is all about Empowering Parents.  Wonderful!  Let’s teach the people who already hold the power cards how to handle the brats they were dealt!  Or maybe this one who thinks we should teach kids to “avoid negative thoughts”.  All of them?  How are kids supposed to learn to handle adversity, to persevere when their life gets tough?  How can we expect kids to “grow up and act like adults” if we don’t give them the tools to do so?

Teenagers are barraged on all sides with negativity.  The media, the stresses of school, work, family dynamics, peer pressure, it all adds up.  Society has drilled it into our heads that teenagers are a pain in the ass – does it not stand to reason that teenagers hear it, too?  Why shouldn’t they fulfill what “everybody” knows to be true? That one blog I referenced above even goes so far as to call their page “My Problem Child”. Maybe it should’ve been, “My Problem Parenting”.

Like anyone else, if we hear something enough times, it becomes the Truth.  (Yes, I meant to capitalize that.)  I grew up with my father telling me that I was a mistake, a regret, and a few other things I won’t repeat in public.  When he died, I did attend the funeral and the burial, out of respect for my mother.  However, I have no clue where the cemetery is now.  I know what town it’s in, and I know a vague direction within the town.  Other than that?  Nada.  I couldn’t find the place without a gps if my life depended on it.  Are you really surprised?

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if there was a way around the misery?

If our teenagers hear their parents tell other people how lucky they are, how proud we are, how happy we are that these teens are in our lives, they believe they have worth.  And they do!  Teenagers, if you just stop bitching about them for a second, have amazing insights.  They observe their world from such a perceptive place; the information saturating their minds.  So many different perspectives are thrown at them: political views conflict with religious upbringing, people they meet are different from what they’ve been told.  How can they possibly make sense of it all?  The overwhelming input leaves them dazed and confused.

You are the adult, right?  You are the older, supposedly wiser person in the relationship.  So use your superior cognitive skills and reshape your own words.  Does your child dress “weird”?  Why not value her sense of individuality and style, and be proud of her ability to go against what everyone else is wearing?  Is she opinionated?  Be proud that she can stand for what she believes in.  Instead of barking, try asking.  You want politeness?  Say “please” and “thank you”.  Respect your child, speak to him like a person; it’s amazing what you’ll get back.

I promised to tell you why I brag about my kids, and I know I haven’t yet.  The answer is really quite simple.  I want my kids to know for sure, every second of every day, they are valued and prized by me.  I do not want them to ever doubt my love for them, my pride in the person that each is becoming.  Because every day that I am so blessed to have my children in my life, another mother is grieving, wishing with all of her being for one more day with her own.

I’ve attended two funerals inside of two weeks for teenagers.  One died of an overdose, and one from a brain tumor.  The anguish and grief in the mothers’ faces tore my heart out.  I have cried more in these two weeks than I have in years.  It isn’t that I was close to either child; I wasn’t.  But I am grieving for the heart wrenching loss that my son is feeling.  I am grieving for those two mothers who will never again see their children smile, hear their children laugh, or hold their children in their arms.

If for no other reason, consider this: if you knew that the teenager in your life (and I know there’s one somewhere, or you wouldn’t be reading this!) was going to die next week, would you want that teenager to die knowing in his heart that he is a “pain in the ass” or would you want his last thoughts be to know that he is loved, valued, and respected as a person?

The next time you speak to or about a teenager, stop and think first.  What is your goal, here?  Change your own paradigm and you can change a teenager’s world.

Protected: Congruence is not always a good thing

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