By the time you read this, I might be dead. But while I don’t fear death, I do fear that the image of me in a hospital bed will color the memories of my loved ones.
Do you want to know what you see in the eyes of your family as they group around your hospital bed? Distance. They’re not there, because, in many ways, neither are you. There’s an odd duality in that sense. A shared distance. You’re both no longer there. Once death becomes a matter of days instead of years, when your condition becomes the “t-word,” that’s when you see it. Well wishes turn to commiserations and forced smiles turn to blank faces.
The small group of rebellious cells in my liver has put me in that category. I know that one morning, soon, my metamorphosis into a “thing” will be complete. I’ve accepted this, because I have no choice not to accept it. I’m never going to leave this bed under my own power, and what remains of this body is a jail I can’t escape from. I’m okay with that.
However, I can’t communicate this to my family, who see it as a completely unfair set of circumstances. Which, yes it is, as they’re the ones who have to keep on living with the pain that suddenly cropped up in Pop one day. That being said, I kind of hope that they’d spent the day they spend visiting me living life instead. Being happy, instead of this.
Their eyes shout it as soon as they enter the room, seeing the new brutality of this week, as their senses wash over in positivity to mask it. I don’t blame them, they’ve had this thrust on them, but I wish they didn’t have to see it.
That anger toward the pain manifests itself in many ways. They’re angry toward the condition, and namely what it’s done to the person they know, because that figure in the bed, counting the seconds in between bouts of medication or fighting to remain conscious, is not them. That’s not Pop. They’re angry at the situation, and that radiates to the stranger in the bed. Their eyes shout it as soon as they enter the room, seeing the new brutality of this week, as their senses wash over in positivity to mask it. I don’t blame them, they’ve had this thrust on them, but I wish they didn’t have to see it.
There is one thing that worries me, something I have no control over. That what I am now will replace the old me in their minds. I know ugliness is more memorable than beauty, and I know what they’ve seen over the months hasn’t been pretty. I hope I’m wrong in that sense, but I know that caustic sanitary smell of hospital rooms tend to stick long in the senses. The last days of someone tends to do that. Tends to be memorable. I saw the same thing with my father, and I suppose the cycle will continue through my son, and his; looking at this towering figure you feared and adored, reduced to a mass of decaying tissue, barely able to communicate in the dwindling time that’s left. Death as a slow public spectacle is indeed hell.
As for life advice, I have none. Nor do I know what to instruct you to embrace in your everyday life. I have no idea. The certainty of death has not made me suddenly wise. The only thing I hope for is that one day those grouped around this bed will be able to remember the good times we spent over my lifespan and not just the last pages of it.
I certainly hope so.