(Photo contributed by Marlena Groomer)
4/1/15 (written six days before my next series of seizures)
This is an excerpt from a post published originally in October, 2015. It carries particular meaning as I am scheduled to undergo an appendectomy tomorrow for a ruptured appendix that was untreated for seven days shortly after this posting until I finally went to the the hospital where it was discovered. Fortunately, the rupture walled itself off avoiding the potential fatal consequences from sepsis and because of various issues, it is only now that surgery can be performed. In rereading this post in light of my impending abdominal surgery, my particular outlook and philosophy described below remains generally intact. Thank you for letting me share. Joe
I was having a lengthy discussion with a friend. During that conversation, she wanted my general thoughts about life, death, and life after death, for what was probably comfort and perspective during a time where her father was struggling with his health. I think she’s grown to respect my opinion after my accident from what was discovered and appreciated along the way. And then she asked the obvious question: Did I fear death? Without much hesitation and with conviction, I said “no” and it wasn’t because of bravado but because I’ve had an abundance of time to think about it.
I guess it’s natural to fear death and it makes sense because we have little control when and how it will occur. Moreover, regardless of the theological lessons we’ve been taught about the heavenly existence that awaits us and the strength of our faith in those beliefs, only after the final beats of our heart will we know if those expectations will be fulfilled. However in light of those uncertainties, there are a few things that have altered my former approach to death over the last year.
I really don’t fear death now but It’s a demon I’m aware of so I keep it close so that I can benefit from its presence. It keeps me driven in how I approach each day and the steps I take in managing those 1,440 minutes afforded to me.
One essential reality I have to factor in is my age since I’m in the last half century of my life although, I’m not sure if I really want to live to 100. Second my parents died at 57 and 60 so those facts certainly enter into the equation. Most importantly my little skirmish that challenged the notion of my “life expectancy” a little over a year ago finalized my need to modify my previous protocols. I know – it’s about time but we all have our own schedules!
I am kind of concerned about the manner of my death but only because of how much pain I’ll have to endure and for how long, and who will be there to suffer for me while I deal with it – trust me I’ll do my best when you guys are around and I did a pretty good job hiding how painful certain days were over the last year. You know I was with my parents when they passed and frankly, it wasn’t like a peaceful scene as frequently depicted in movies. Some people fear dying “alone” but I’ve never expected or planned on anyone going with me, you know? I’m not even sure I want you guys being present in those final moments since I might make a spectacle of myself. Frankly I’d be fine with just the kindness of a nurse holding my hand as I drift away. If it’s true that we go to a better place, I’m sure I’ll find somebody with a cell phone and send a group text to let everyone know I’m okay since it’s probably the easiest way to get ahold of you three, ha, ha (kind of).
A seed was planted that gave me somewhat of a goal to try to get my “shit” together in about a year and I think I took care of quite a bit of that well before that deadline along with other personal objectives that were essentially fulfilled solely by my own personal fortitude and conviction. What interestingly occurred was that by where I took myself, my energy was increasingly directed at helping you try to get or keep YOUR own “shit” together and that along with helping you strive towards your greatest goals has been my driving force and purpose! I think I’m in a good enough place to take care of what I still need and have plenty left over to incorporate you guys into my plans.
… I’ve continued to strive to provide you all with guidance and insight. I think just by standing and looking back over this recent body of work, enough has trickled through to tell me I’ve done the best I could to leave it confidently in your hands should I ever lose in the next battle with mortality. I’m stopped in my tracks when I think about the legacy I would have left behind had I not made it past 2013 compared to the legacy I think I’ve created leading through 2015 and hopefully beyond. I’m so f’ing lucky to have gotten that chance along with my own personal and individual makeup to know what to do with it!
I think back to what my cousin Marcy told me awhile back (and it’s in no way to fuel my ego) after finding out what happened to me and what I chose to do with it. Paraphrasing her words she left me with this: “Cousin, I am so proud and happy to be related to you” and it’s not because we share the same lineage but because she was strengthened by the knowledge that the same blood that flows in me, flows in her. It wasn’t as important to me because of what she said but because it was important to her as a source of hope and confidence that through our genetic connection, there lies somewhere in her the resources to overcome her own struggles. Oh and by the way that same blood that my parents gifted me with courses through you with the additional benefit that I’m putting on a daily display to illustrate what it means!
So my point? Just to let you know I’m in a good place for whatever fickle direction this life may take me – it’s not as much in my hands as much as it is in “His”. Still I have a sense that the foundation of my basic “bucket lists” since my injury have been achieved. Of course I still have grander ones for myself that are in my hands to accomplish if given the days but if that choice is taken from me, I’m now cool with what I have left behind for all of you to carry, remember, and smile about.
My nagging concern is if I wasn’t around, which one of you boys would step up for Mom at the expense of the trivial distractions that take your focus. I say this because when my father was no longer a permanent part of my home when I was much younger than you guys, I became the “de facto man of the family” but as I got older, I sometimes abdicated that role for my own self-absorbed interests. If I could go back and change those times I would, but I can’t and as the next generation, I have to trust you to never make those mistake because your Mom deserves it, your upbringing calls for it, and your character demands it!
Last thing. I’ve had to rely primarily on myself while motivated by your existence to get where I’m at now. Therefore most of my individual needs can be fulfilled through my own efforts and creativity so that should take any pressure off yourselves to make me happier than I am (if that’s on your minds) so that you can concentrate on the best choices for yourselves and our family’s happiness.
I put a lot of work into this so don’t screw things up for yourselves because we will never know if my next brush with death doesn’t turn out so well, leaving me without the energy, resources, ability, or even presence to help you out. Still if it was only for me (although not happy with the thought), I’m not as fearful as before after what I’ve built and left behind and in the end, I’ve got to believe you could and would take care of each other in my absence. Make sense?