There has been a lot of dying going on lately. Far more than in any year I can remember. Most recently – Tiger, a new friend in McGregor. We were at his restaurant, celebrating Rob’s birthday when he came over, pulled up a chair and plonked himself down. He had a squeaky rugby ball toy in his hand, and his beloved dog Denzil jumped onto his lap. “Robby,” he said, “we have a song for you.”
Then he squeezed the rugby ball a couple times as if finding the right pitch. Denzil looked at him expectantly, he cleared his throat: “haaaaapyyyyyy ….” Denzil threw his head back and howled his little poodle heart out along with his master. They sang the whole song together and it was funny as hell. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.
Two days later Tiger went to the kitchen to make coffee for his wife Jill. He came back in and instead of sitting on the bed for a chat like he usually did, said he was going to lie down for a minute. He started to snore almost immediately. And Jill told him “this is no time for a nap.” It wasn’t a snore, then he was gone.
My dad has been saying how much he hates the idea of living in a retirement village. He finds the constant dying hard to get his head around. I completely hear him. I have started counting the years past and minusing them from a possible future number – and panic-ing a little. My uncle Gary, our friend Ian, Jean next door, Eddie’s Mom Irena, Richard’s cancer buddy Rashid, a friend from university and now Tiger. I shouldn’t count the suicide of an old work colleague, that’s a choice not a lottery. But I will – that’s 8 people in under 6 months. And it is making me frightened.
Nothing I can do about it – but live the best life I can. Preparing but not sitting on my hands. I have been doing a lot of that. Waiting room stuff. Careful does it … all the time. Half a life. Don’t spend too much money. Don’t drink too many cocktails. Don’t spend a lot on those trousers. Get it all done now. The shoulds need to stop and the ams need to start. Like the man said – this isn’t a rehearsal.
I saw this today and thought I would share it with you. There is a hope and optimism in this TED talk by Matthew O’Riley. And a reminder about owing honesty to those who need it the most.
Matthew O’Riley is an Emergency Medicine Technician – he responds to critical, the hopeless, the dying. And he talks about how he changed his response to the question: “Am I going to die.” He decided to give the honest answer: “In that moment, I decided to do something different. I decided to tell him the truth. I decided to tell him that he was going to die and that there was nothing I could do for him. His reaction shocked me to this day. He simply laid back and had a look of acceptance on his face. He was not met with that terror or fear that I thought he would be. He simply laid there, and as I looked into his eyes, I saw inner peace and acceptance.”
He talks about three patterns he saw in the people who died in his care:
“Whether they call it sin or they simply say they have a regret, their guilt is universal.” People who wished they had done more of something. Less of something.
“The need for remembrance.” By O’Riley, his crew, their family, friends: “Will you remember me?”
and then: “The final pattern I observe always touched me the deepest, to the soul. The dying need to know that their life had meaning. They need to know that they did not waste their life on meaningless tasks.”
And there it is.