I’ve seen violent death and I was able to go on scarred but functional. But the death looming before me these days is the hardest to bear.
It’s a family picture with the patriarch slowly fading. The head, the arms, the body. You try to stop the eraser with your memories but there’s no stopping it. It only hurts more when you remember the days when he walked with you, had coffee and cracked jokes you had heard a hundred times. He even jokes now, but his voice falters. He can walk but only with a cane. One thing he hasn’t given up is his appetite. Give him a piece of candy and the smile will reappear.
The docs say if you don’t hook him up to a machine, he has limited time. You want the machine but he doesn’t. Please, just once. He hates needles, blood and hospitals. But you’re okay with all that. You’re okay sitting at his bedside until the morning hours holding his hand. He says he’ll rip out the the machine if you hook him up. So you have no choice. It’s not about you. All you can think about is his last breath. He’s the one dying but you feel dead already.
When will the last breath occur? How much pain has to be endured? What will you have left of him? You don’t want the memories. You want him just the way he was, a brooding, intellectual with no aim. He doesn’t know it’s coming or maybe he does.
But I know. And I wish I didn’t. I wish I could be far away again to see the quick, violent death of those I do not know. It’s easier.
I have already begun to grieve and it’s so selfish. I grieve not for him but for my loss. Humans are narcissistic even in death. He is happy to leave this hell he has endured barely alive for the last 31 years — three decades of life in exile. He wanted to be gone 20 years ago but he lived on. I’m not sure why. Maybe for the family. So God help me in letting go of him because I do not know how.