This is the second posting on my new blog series topic about Death & Dying. So, if you missed yesterday’s post, be sure to read it too. Such a fine, universal subject as our own demise… which everyone is so fascinated by, and so afraid of.
Hey people! Lighten up! Death is one of the most important activities of Life and we keep sweeping it under the rug.
How do YOU feel about it? What do YOU have to say to your family about these matters? You might want to say it now, while you can still talk and think rationally. And if you don’t know exactly how you feel about some of the practices connected with death and dying, it would certainly behoove you to find out, long before you are automatically laid upon the knee-jerk conveyor belt which this society has, so conveniently, constructed to handle everything connected with the end of life and our ultimate “resting place.”
Might you have caught a whiff of the economics behind those medical and funereal engines? My reasons for avoiding them are rooted in the more ethereal, spiritual-consequences, area; but those Big Business Practices are right up there, on my objection list, too. I don’t necessarily wish to provide somebody else with more bang for the buck on my way out. Don’t I sound cynical? Oh yeah!
On August 4, 2004, my daughter, her husband, and two small children, were coming to Florida for a visit. So I wrote out the following two-page instruction letter to give to them, as well as to my son. I don’t remember having any deep conversations about it, but I’m sure I explained what I was handing them. Today, I couldn’t find my copy, but my son still had one, stapled to my Will, so that was still working as planned. Reading over this, I don’t see many changes to make, but if I do add anything, I’ll write it in italics here, so we can see how much upgrading five years can bring. The title of this document is the same as the title of this blog. Okay, here we go:
“Our family will be gathered together over the next few weeks, so this would be a good time to set out my wishes as clearly as possible, in the event that I should become ill or die, either on my travels or in the future. Since we can’t anticipate all of the possibilities, I trust that you will be able to recognize the underlying principles and come up with your own interpretation, which will remain true to my intentions, if things don’t exactly fit these descriptions.
Let’s say that I become injured in some way. I don’t object to surgery to remove bullets, fence posts, or other such foreign objects that have, accidentally, entered my body. Nor do I object to the sewing up of gaping wounds or the splinting of broken bones. But, I do strenuously object to heroic measures to prolong my life when the end is right there, waiting for me, and I would object to the above surgery if it is quite clear that there is no ultimate hope of survival, anyway. Patch me up a bit, give me pain medication, nutrition, and water, to a reasonable extent (not simply to maintain a comatose body), and let me be, either to heal on my own, or to die a natural death.
You may donate my organs to those who need them.
I am healthy and happy and totally in my right mind. Here is my absolute and firm decision on medical treatment, (surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and any other technique that may be invented in the future) for any condition, such as a tumor or cancer, or other forms of radically-feared diseases which might crop up in my body at any time: I far, far, far prefer taking my chances with whatever has been meted out to me, than to go under the knife, or have the administration of other powerful healing methods, which would turn me into a “patient,” immediately, with a percentage of a chance to recover, even to the point of health which I had, while simultaneously hosting the suspicious undiscovered tissue. I shall amend this to say that I will leave myself free to make whatever decision I wish to make in these matters, should they ever arise, if my mind is still in charge of my affairs at that time. But, if the mind has gone, and someone else is thrust into this sort of a decision; then for heavens sakes, do not prolong the inevitable, if it has delivered itself to my door! I do not buy into future promises of escape from the downward slope into death.
Because frankly, I am very attracted to that steep pitch and I do not fear what is at the bottom. Or, the top, to better fit my interpretation of it. I look forward to that day. Not that I’m not enjoying my time on Earth with you, my family. I am! But, I have lived a very good life and am ready to leave this planet at any moment. That’s not an escape wish. It’s simply a healthy outlook. At the same time, I have tremendous confidence in the healing power of my own body, and have had many experiences along that line. So, should I get into a rather helpless place, I do not want to have to fight the do-gooders off alone. I will need you to step in and defend my right to let what will happen, happen.
You are not to have any feelings of guilt about this. That is the emotion that this society tries to whip us all into. Well, let’s have none of that! It’s very badly misplaced, often by people who feel quite impersonal about the poor soul who is at the center of the attention. They track along, according to their training, their habit, their quota for the week, or whatever else motivates them. That is none of our business. We are none of their business. For me, as far as they are concerned, less is definitely more. And, none is best of all.
But, we live in this world, and as we weaken, we become fodder for the professionals in the services which have grown up around this need to serve the elderly. That’s good and bad. Much is good, and I am enjoying my senior citizenship and all the perks that it entitles me to. But, if I could orchestrate my death, it wouldn’t happen here. It would happen in some country that takes death more in stride. Where they do not consider it “The Enemy,” to be held at bay, at all costs. My little dream is, that while I wander the world, I will be searching for that gentle hospice where I can arrange to go when the end seems nigh, and they will give me a cot and meals, a little something for the pain, and hold my hand, sometimes. And let me do it my way.
One thing I do know is that I will move mountains not to wind up on either of your shoulders. That would not make any of us happy. So again, let go of the emotions which the world says that you should have about these things. If there is this much under my control at those end times for me, let me go with your happiness, to my secluded dying spot, or find one for me nearer by, if the long distance plan isn’t going to work. Home is not the best idea, if it means that same old bedroom your Dad (my ex) died in. You know how it is. So, I’m sleeping in it now, to be here for Randy’s sake, but I really don’t want to have to die in it.That would be too strange. How about renting a little cabana on the beach? Put the money into the swan song, instead of hospitals and funeral homes? Or if I’m really out of it, send me to a nursing home where they don’t call you Dearie, but let you do your own thing. And Hospice is a very good idea. They’re not afraid of Death!
And then comes the burial stuff. The general principle here is also, “Less is More.” No embalming, no cremation. And the new one for this modern age – no Plastination. If I die overseas, see if they will let me stay in their earth. If not, then okay. I apologize to you for the inconvenience.
I sure did like that article about Green Graveyards, which are springing up, more and more. There is one in Florida, somewhere. We do have a family plot in the old Winter Haven cemetery, and that’s okay, I guess, but I’m not all that wild about it. Look at me, ready to toss off my body, but trying to hold out for shade, for heaven’s sakes! Go figure! And I sure do like the idea of a pine box or a cloth wrapping – meaning, keep it simple. Also, there seems to be something good about being able to “return our molecules to the soil” in the swiftest way possible.
In 2004, I suggested the following: I have no idea if the restaurant is still there, or if Sam still owns it. Must check that out someday, but you get the picture: If you want to hold a Memorial Service, then I think that the Fathoms Restaurant, on Indian Rocks Beach, would be just fine. I graduated from high school with Sam Masaino, the owner, and it’s a very pretty place. Good food, too. I’m working on plucking some things out of my journal to share for readings. Woops, better get onto that pretty soon. Just have a good time and laugh a lot. That will make me very happy.
So, getting into life. Then, getting through life. Then, getting out of life… all with grace and dignity… is a very tall order. And, I count on you, my dear, dear children, to help me to do it well. The simpler, the less frantic, the less worried and fraught, the better.
I love you all, very much!
Mom, aka Linda Jeanne Dickinson Brown
August 4, 2004 and August 30, 2009
To my blog readers: Please stay tuned for more interesting comments on the subject of death & dying. I’m on a roll now.
Man! When the time is right, the time is really right…to write! I’ve been meaning to sit down and address this blog topic for at least a week, but I have two other hot writing projects going on; and anyway, this is the one topic that everyone puts off, even though they know they should write it – yesterday.
Write what?, you ask. My Own End of Life Instructions. That’s what!
So, I revved up my computer this morning to get started. Actually first, I wrote out my whole blog post in my journal this morning and then logged on. Voila! Right there on AOL was a statistical test you can take to find out when you are going to die. Cool! This is the day to deal with this, all right! (If you are reading this close to 8-30-09, it might take awhile to load as the site is getting lots of hits, being on AOL headlines, as it is today. But, be patient, it will load.)
Next, I checked my email and learned that a dear high school friend, Sue Willis, had died three days ago, on Thursday. We all expected it. She was in renal failure and had been in intensive care for about a month, but this was the first we knew that it had happened because another classmate was just getting out the word. Sue was synonymous with our Winter Haven (Florida) High School Class of ’55. She had been the organizer and Information Central on our very-tight graduating class over all these fifty-four years and she had pulled together some real doozy, weekend reunions, as well as monthly luncheons at a hometown restaurant for anyone so inclined. So, losing Sue is a real blow and none of us will sufficiently recover until that not-so-far-off Reunion In The Sky, in the Great Bye And Bye; which, I guess, Sue will have ready to roll when the last class member finally kicks the bucket. But, you know what? I hope that we can do a practice run at her funeral, or memorial service, which won’t be immediately, as her only kin is now traveling. This gives us all some time to plan to gather for it. Yeah, guys! What do you say? Lets let her host one more get-together while we’re all still on Earth.
Oh, and here’s an interesting factoid: By now, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I’m psychically and telepathically-inclined. Well, I had just had a conversation with Sue, Innerly, and looked it up in my journal. It had taken place in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. We talked a little about whether she was “ready to go.” No, not yet, she reported. She was still having too much fun hooked up to all those machines. A day later, she took her leave of the whole kit and kaboodle! Good on ‘ya, Sue!
But now, back to my own instructions here. As Sue can attest, time is shorter than we all think. My intentions were jogged by last Sunday’s St. Pete Times coverage of “At Life’s End.” And all week, I’ve messed around, meaning to take care of two birds with one stone – get a good blog out of it, and make sure my kids have an updated copy of my wishes. But, this is probably the most-procrastinated duty in everybody’s life…even mine. I, a person who really anticipates the grand new adventure of a trip into the Next World.
But, once out of the bag, this cat is going to have LOTS to say, so sign up for my RSS feed right now. You won’t be sorry. And I promise to write much more frequently than I have been doing.
I had written an instruction letter about all this, exactly five years ago this month, and it took a little scrambing around to find it. Another reason for re-visiting this topic. If I can’t find it, in my right mind and good health, how do I expect my relatives to do so, under frantic circumstances??? I’m so healthy today, that I’m sitting around in bare feet and bermuda shorts on this gorgeous Labor Day Sunday, eleven days before my 72nd birthday. But, it’s never too early to start planning your own funeral. So let us begin.
I will end this introductory salvo with a quote from the blog about the subject, which I wrote this morning, much of which I’ve already said in a different form above. But this still works:
“So folks, this putting off these final instructions until tomorrow isn’t always a matter of not being able to face death. Your mother, or dad, or next of kin…or yourself, may not be unwilling to talk about the subject. In fact, like me, they might be quite garrolous and opinionated, but still, it never gets written down. So, let’s take a moment now, and bow our heads, and promise ourselves that we wil come off of our Immortality Kick long enough to do justice to that little bit of the most important writing that you may ever do: Your Final Instructions!
Take a load off! Sit down! Say it out! And, save yourself (and others) some grief down the road apiece!”
Here are a few excuses for not blogging last week: I had company. My book manuscript came first. The weather was sunny; the beach was nice. I couldn’t think of anything to write about. Okay, I’m forgiven…but I had a good dream last night which I will now share with you. Maybe it has a hidden message.
I dreamed that I had a job producing a television series about weddings. A camera crew would follow a bride during the months leading up to the wedding and then the program would consist of the highlights of planning, as well as the ceremony, in one complete show.
Well, one of the brides was an elderly movie star…she’s the one who played Archie Bunker’s wife. You all can remember her name; I cannot, right at this moment… Jean Stapleton, I think. Anyway, when the composite version was edited together, it was obvious that the bride had expanded greatly during the months of preparation. All through this time, she had announced and completely believed, that she was on a serious diet. But, month by month, during filming, she became larger and larger.
Now, we know that she wasn’t pregnant. The moment of truth, for her, came at the second fitting of the bridal gown. It wouldn’t zip up behind by many inches now, whereas, after the first fitting some months earlier, it had been custom measured. A study of the filmed record showed her nibbling on power bars in almost every shot, and the fact emerged that she had invented a diet for herself during which she refused all food, throughout those many months, except for a protein-packed, chocolate-covered, brand of power bar. The trouble was that she had eaten them throughout the day, maybe a dozen or more daily, instead of using them as a meal replacement. If they were a healthy food substitute, then “more is better,” was her philosophy.
Consequently, the nationally-televised wedding saga was really a public viewing of a reverse diet and a newly-addicted health food nut. However, far from this being any sort of a tragedy, the bride and groom treated it like a “Woops!” moment; had a good laugh, and went on to have a happy life together.
Two questions occur to me: Was the groom Archie? Did I tap into a dream version prequel to Happy Days?
More likely, the dream was a caution to me, since I went to bed feeling a bit fat, having by now, packed on eight pounds since returning home three months ago from South America. Also, I have a carton and a half of chocolate-covered power bars in my fridge!!!
Now, all that’s missing for me is the groom and the camera crew.
My son has not yet taken up blogging but I encourage him to, because he keeps many journals going, filled with essays about his observations. Guess that runs in the family. The following is one of his essays, in which he is carrying on a family tradition started by his grandmother, my mother. She was an artist. He is an artist. She was a lifelong keen hawk on the useage of words and phrases. So is he. Both of those traits skipped over me, which probably means that they will show up again in a great-grandchild.
Anyway, here is a blog written by my son, Randy:
“It’s funny how new words become fashionable and suddenly you begin to encounter them all over the place: blogs, editorials, articles, interviews, etc. Here are a few current ones: I don’t remember encountering any of them, in their new guise, before two or three years ago, at most.
“Passion” – This is really a buzzword of the business world. It replaces “Excellence” as what everyone is supposed to be striving for; what they…
“Bring To The Table” – Another business cliche. Apparently, it’s no longer sufficient that an employee be competent, reliable and personable. He must also be passionate about Amalgamated Widget, and the general world of widgets, or whatever it is.
“To Unpack” – This word simply means to take a close and critical look at some idea, assumption, phrase, or statement. To lay out the underlying attitudes and structures that may not be initially apparent. “Unpacking” has a Leftist tinge. They often use it in the sense of exposing the hidden racism, or reason, in a given innocent or euphemistic expression from the Right. As in, “Let’s unpack that statement.”
“A heartbeat away from the Presidency.” has been used by the Lefties recently to depict the (supposedly) dire situation that a (supposedly unprepared) Sarah Palin would face if she was Vice President. I have heard this again and again. It’s like people can’t seem to put things in their own words. Can they not even vary it now and again? A “breath” away, maybe? But, they hear some phrase, like it, and then just parrot it back when called for.
“Disappointed” – Ex-President Bush may have started this when he remarked that he was “disappointed” that no WMDs were ever found in Iraq. People use it to replace “Unhappy that…” or “Sorry…” “It’s unfortunate that…” Disappointed often sounds not quite right.
“Issue” – is another one. In many cases it has replaced the word, “Problem.” So, we get such ludicrous offerings as, “We are having issues with the broadband connection.” (!!!!)
“Traction” – This one is everywhere now. “Getting Traction” means that the subject under discussion is starting to come into its own; is accomplishing its mission; is gaining ground, as it were. For example, “A concern about Global Warming has now gotten traction with the American public.” or “The proposed new law just couldn’t get any traction with citizens.”
“In harm’s way” – You see this a lot because of Iraq. Our soldiers (almost always referred to as “Troops,”) are often spoken of as being in harm’s way. Why not in danger, or described as in a potentially harmful situation, or in a place of risk?
“Platform” – As in a nation, China, India, being on a “manufacturing platform.” Why not a “center of industry?”
Here is some current slang that young people really, actually use:
“Hella” – meaning Extremely. Perhaps from helacious, or Hell of a…
“Rock” – to rock something is to sport it, to wear it. Especially some flashy, new, fun or sexy item of apparel.
“Woot” – an expression of enthusiasm, surprise, exclamation.
It’s also funny how certain phrases become stock and always trundled out. Prisoners always only ever “Rot” or “Languish” in jail…. SUVs always “Guzzle” gas; war always “Rages.” Everybody “Battles” cancer.”
I believe the use of words such as these to be a sign of loose, fast, sloppy thinking used by those who don’t have anything new to say. It’s often the journalists who are guilty of the worst of this usage. They swim in an ocean of media, so they get a lot of exposure to trendy writing and are often probably partial to it…always looking for what is short, dynamic and telegraphic.
Consequently, some magazine articles consist of little but strung together buzzwords, catch phrases, pop-culture references and canned concepts in what becomes almost like a series of Chinese ideograms. That is, if you don’t know the societal references, the article barely makes sense.”
It’s been awhile since my last blog. Why? I have a bad case of Titleitis! A really bad case, which involves my night and my day, and won’t let up for a second to allow me sit down and write a good blog.
Never heard of Titelitis? I’m not surprised. I just made up the word this minute. You see, I’m trying to come up with a great title for my new book and, as always, that’s the most difficult part of writing the whole thing. Two to three hundred pages, plus, of book material? No problem! But, a short and sweet, perfect, clever book title??? Big problem.
One of my brilliant ideas has become the title of this blog. Of course, it has nothing to do with the contents of the blog. And unfortunately, nothing, at all, to do with the contents of my book manuscript. But, it’s a great pun and I think it might be original. It’s actually something I said in my sleep and heard myself enunciating as I woke from a nap. Wow! Brilliant! A twist on the old maxim: “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie.”
If I were the author of a political expose book, maybe I could justify its use. Or maybe it would have to be an animal psychology book, or dog training tips, a mystery, or any fiction. But not my book. If you have a use for it, be my guest.
That’s the whole thing. This book is a three-in-one, as far as themes go. How do you pack all that into one title? First, it’s about my four-months backpacking as a very old lady throughout South America. So what else is new? My first book Hey Boomers, Dust Off Your Backpacks: Travel The World On A Limited Budget, was about twelve-months backpacking around-the-world alone, as a slightly-younger old lady.
But, a second running theme in this current manuscript is about my cronky investigation of the parallel between the Andean Mountain Chain and the human spinal column; during which I saw (and proved, conclusively) that there is a correlation and that (no doubt about it) we have the fossilized skeleton of the living planet right there along the western coastline of South America. See the physical/geographical features page in any Atlas to confirm this truth. Plus, I attempt to cure the planet’s ills by performing chiropractic upon any mountanous bones I happen to be walking upon at the time. Hmmmm? The lady’s crazy alright. Hey, why not try to do some good in the world?
Further complicating my title search, is a third theme which I have decided to allow to remain in the manuscript, written using my journal notes of the trip. This angle was not included in my previous book, although it was present throughout. As you may have gathered from some of the blogs presented here, I have an ongoing, conversational relationship with The Holy Spirit; giving me a deep interest in the metaphysical angle of just about everything in existence. I like to analyze things to the Nth Degree and that’s what we talk about, (Him and me). I have decided to include those conversations in this book, thereby opening a very private door into my soul. This book will be my debut into the New Age category.
A title is, basically, a marketing tool. You have to think of all the angles, especially how it will sell your book in ten words or less. I have huge respect for the folks who make their living writing headlines, especially those little blue blurbs on your home page, announcing all the news stories of the day. They have to make you want to click and read. That’s what a book title must do. And yet, it has to capture the essence of the written word inside and telegraph something of what the reader will get when selecting your book over all the others on the shelf. An author must figure out stuff like: Who is my target market? What is my message? Who else has used this title? Does it offend? Is it stupid?
Most of my ideas are pretty stupid…considering the snap reaction of those upon whom I test these things. The blog title above is a prime example.
I have this yellow pad with pages and pages of ideas:
“Inspecting The Unexpected”
“The Spine of South America”
“Sacred Spine Of The South”
“Upper Level Spinal Tapping”
“An Odd Adjustment”
“‘Dem Dry Bones: Exploring The Andean Spinal Column”
“One-On-One With The Holy Spirit”
“Crossing Dimensions Of Andean Proportion”
“Conversations With The Holy Spirit”
“Straddling The Dimensions””
“Either, Or: Either She’s Nuts, Or She’s Not”
“Walking The Spine Of A Planet”
“Bones Of A Planet”
“A Foot In Each Dimension”
“Stalking The Gigantic Nebulous”
“Stalking The Nebulous Gigantic”
Or how about: “Nebulous Nebulae,” which I might use if I were ever to walk in space while carrying on my conversations with my own particular Nebulous Gigantic. And survive to write about it, of course.
See what I mean? This practice causes my son to shake his head every time. Like I said, I have Titleitis.
The list goes on. Submit some of your own, if you like. Stay tuned to see what is finally chosen.
These days, I’m spending a lot of time working my way through journals, notes, and old blogs, trying to sum up four months of rough travel in South America to see what I might have to say to the world in another book. If you have been following this blog, you understand that my main take on foreign countries is that they are basically safe places, filled with people who have the same needs and aspirations as we in America do. You also know that these countries might not be as comfortable as home, and you’ve heard me grumble about temperature, toilets, local food, broken sidewalks… and who knows what all?
But, my bottom line is that if I, at the age of seventy-one, can hack backpacking and hosteling for long periods of time, all by myself, with limited cash…..then, something about our common fears concerning foreign countries is simply groundless. You all know what “common fears” I’m talking about: every one of those nameless, faceless terrors, summed up in the one word – Danger – all of which come to mind when we contemplate placing ourselves in the midst of any society that is different from our own.
Well, where do these fears come from, I ask? I’ll tell you where!
They originate with our fellow American travelers who return from an “exotic” place without much of a story. Frankly, nothing really happened to them to whomp up a good audience at the dinner table or the watercooler. Or, worse yet, they have nothing much to write an exciting column about once they return to their newspaper desk and the expectant editor who allowed them three weeks off to visit friends in Bolivia, for instance.
Yesterday’s St. Petersburg Times carried one of these inseminating sort of articles, which plant new terror in the heart of a reader, or confirm an already-existing terror about a poor, innocent country that is really not all that bad.
It’s a cheap shot! I know exactly how it feels to sit at my desk, back home, wanting to write something fantastic about my trip. Wanting to wow an audience. Wanting to sell my book. Wanting to cash in on the faulty currency of misinformation about the state of the world, so that I will look brave for staring it down. But, I would be selling my soul to add one more lie to the commonly-held myth that the world is, essentially, this terrible and dangerous place. AND, that, Praise be God!!!, we Americans just happen to live in the best of all worlds! Halleluhah, clap, clap!
I, too, am always glad to get back home! Things do look better here. But, it’s very likely that Bolivians are also glad to return to their hometown, as well, after roaming countries strange to them. We all like our own beds, our own kitchens, our own habits. Not all foreigners live on the streets.
Okay, let’s take a look at the article I’m venting about. Bill Maxwell’s regular column in yesterday’s Sunday St. Pete Times, headlined: “On travel, terror and living to tell the tale.” This is a form of Terrorism that we usually don’t think of as terrorism. But, it does destroy something necessary to the spread of peace among human beings. It reinforces the suspicion that poorer countries are places of lurking danger; that we might be mugged, or attacked for our differences; and that their smelly public toilets really place them in a less-than-human condition. The worst part of it is, that I have a strong suspicion that these were not this writer’s honest opinions. I believe the actual case is, that he had a mildly good time during this trip and that he probably enjoyed this visit to old friends, but he needed to beef up his story upon return.
Have you never been in that situation yourself? I’m in it right now. But, if I can’t find any more to say about my four-month, South American explorations, then shame on me.
My gosh, he makes such a deal out of being momentarily separated, at a La Paz parade, from his host family; out of his lack of the Spanish language; of how his gray hair and height sets him apart from the short, dark-haired people. This man is a world traveler, with many countries under his belt, so I suspect he was sensationalizing here, and reaching for pretty thin material, at that.
Plus, every traveler has to talk about the toilets. So many places offer this pungent shock value. But, they do the best they can with what they’ve got, and it’s so widespread that we “materialized ones,” with our taken-for-granted flush power, had better just take it in stride, rather than trying to save up for only our host’s, or our hotel’s, facilities.
What gets me is that everything he said in his column applied to me all of the time. Not just in Bolivia, but throughout the whole continent. I didn’t have a local family to run interference or to serve as translators, either. But, this was merely background for my everyday experiences. Yes, I might have fussed about being cold a lot and not particularly liking some of the food, but I didn’t couch the whole business as if it were a danger. I truly believe that it wasn’t personally perceived as a danger to him as well. until he needed to make a big deal out of his big adventure for the folks back home.
As a culture, we Americans palpate way too much for my tastes, and these trumped-up, first person reports are one of the reasons why.
To back up my own radical views, I invite you to read my first book about backpacking around the world, alone, for a year, throughout many such “dangerous” countries, as a senior citizen on a limited budget. You can find it on this blogsite. Or check out “Hey Boomers! Dust Off Your Backpacks” by Linda J. Brown, on Amazon.com, to see how it’s possible to fuss about international inconveniences, but not to terrorize with them.