The Irony of Death

My Mom called me about six times last night before I finally answered.  I wasn’t screening her calls I just left my cell phone on vibrate.  I didn’t notice she had been calling until she finally called my wife and left a voice message.

“Your Mom sounds really upset, you should call her.”

Normally I would wait until morning to call my Mom back, but if she is sounding really upset I call back immediately.  I’m just never sure if its an emergency or not.  I call my Mom back and she doesn’t sound that upset so I’m a little relieved.  I was dreading the thought of possibly having to drive an hour at midnight to handle a situation.

“Mom has breast cancer.” Mom in this case is Grandma.  She’s in her early 60’s and found out yesterday that she has early stages of malignant breast cancer.  Her sister, my great aunt, just passed away within the year from the same disease so I gather everyone is concerned.

What struck me wasn’t a feeling of dread about my Grandmother’s potential death, but a lack of empathy and a strong concern and realization about my own death.  That is horribly selfish I know, but I have always had a difficult time feeling well, what you are supposed to feel.  I was more concerned about my lack of raw emotion than concern for my Grandmother having breast cancer – that seems potentially narcissistic.

The other thing that bothered me was my own death.  I don’t dwell it, but occasionally I think how strange it is that one day I will have to face my own death.  I’m not sure how it will come and that is just as weird.

There will be a time where things happen on this earth and I will not be here to witness them.  I will be no more.  I will one day lay in a  hospital bed and count down my own passing.  Or I’ll die instantly in an accident – who knows.  It might be painful or it might be quick – but I will face death.  Strangely, there is some comfort in knowing that every single person on earth and every person who has ever been has and will experience the same thing.  That is one thing we all have in common in the human experience.

Thinking about my own death I thought about the things I would want.  I think I would want to know that people cared for me, that people were rooting for me, and to be prepared.  So I think its only right that I give my Grandmother that same respect.  To let her know I’m rooting for her, that I care for her, and to help her in any way possible to be prepared if it comes to the point where she does have to face death.

I will lie to her if needed.  I will pretend I care more than I do if I have to when the time comes.  I’ll even give in to her religious comforts when inevitably I find myself in a room full of people praying over her sick body.  I’ll even nod my head and put up no fight when people tell her she’s going to a better place, a magical place.  Why?  Because if religion makes her passing easier, provides her comfort, who am I to take that away in her last moments?

I’m being morbid.  They caught this early.  She’ll probably come out fine, but the rules about death still apply – or at least they will someday.  Death, I think it’s just a part of life.  You recognize it’s there, ignore it, prepare for it, hate it, but it’s a gift.  Death is the one thing holding you accountable for life – it’s your term limit – in a way it’s what makes you enjoy life the most. Maybe that’s the irony of death.

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4 thoughts on “The Irony of Death

  1. jon

    Att- the great thing is your honesty, with yourself and with your blog readers. With such great self-awareness (which I think is uncommon), I’m sure you’ll navigate this in the right way.

    Also, I don’t know anything about the role your grand-mother played in your life — but it’s possible (speaking bluntly) that she wasn’t a pivotal figure for you as a child – and that you never became strongly attached to her emotionally. There’s no rule that says we have to form strong attachments to each of our blood relations.

    Reply
    1. Atticus Finch

      It’s funny you say that Jon. I have said many times that “just because we are relatives doesn’t make us family.” I consider my best friend my Brother and closer to me than almost any of my “blood” relatives.

      Also, you’re right, my grandmother and I never shared a strong emotional bond. We see each other on a relatively infrequent basis.

      Reply
  2. jon

    I’ll say something else that might be unpopular. Parents often get exactly what they deserve from their children. When it’s difficult for us to be around one or both parents, there’s usually a good reason for that. And if you were to decide that your responsibility to yourself and your wife supersede those to your mother (I mention your mom because you wrote about her recently), that may be a perfectly reasonable decision. (I’m not saying that’s necessarily the answer; but if that’s what your gut tells you, it might not be necessary to second-guess it.

    Reply

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