Reflections: Facing the Inevitable

Since this has been a subject that has popped up on occasion between myself and a few friends from various quarters, I figured I might as well write about it here… Or rather at least some of my thoughts on the matter. But first a story:

Growing up I knew quite a few people that decided to go down the medical path, after several years in medical school, one such acquaintance talked about their experiences. Originally when they entered medical school they did so with the desire to work with babies and children, but as time went on they started changing their tune and decided that they wanted to work with the elderly.

When pressed upon why the change of heart, they said: “Well doctors are humans too, and they make mistakes. So if I am diagnosing a baby or a child and it’s wrong it becomes a very complicated and messy situation, but if I work with the elderly and I am wrong, it wouldn’t matter as much because they are old and will die soon anyway.”

As harsh and pragmatic as that statement sounds, there is a ring of reality and truth to that… So much so that it makes me wonder: when doctors are faced in giving a diagnosis to an elderly person, how much time and thought is actually given to researching and trying to figure out what is going on? Or do they take the best guess on the situation, then prescribe some medication and send them off on their merry way because their time will come soon enough.

I know that there are a lot of people out there that are up in arms about what I just wrote above, and you have every right to be. Afterall we fight for life, no? But then I came across the following quote:

Life asked Death: “Why do people love me but hate you?” Death responded, “Because you are a beautiful lie and I am a painful truth”…

And what about the inevitable? Death is probably the only guarantee that we all have in life, so why avoid it? Why are we trying to find ways to live longer? Prolong the pain and suffering? Why do we mourn and cry for those upon their deathbeds? Do we cry because of all the times that is lost and may never get back? Or do we truly cry because we feel sorry for those whose time may have come but we don’t want to admit it to ourselves?

In the past several weeks I have had such conversations relating to death with various friends. Some who have loved ones and feared losing them, others that have already experienced death within their sphere. All seem to regret lost time with the passed loved one, but if you truly regret the time lost, why didn’t you do something about it when you had the chance?

Case in point: I have family who live at the other side of the world, so visiting them isn’t very simple. My grandfather was sick and bedridden for a few years and has been knocking at death’s door, but he had yet to pass. My parents decided to make the trip to visit and I had to decide whether I wanted to go or not. My problem was that I was studying towards a license exam and as thus was not sure if I would have the time or the chance to go. But after some thinking I decided to take a week and a half off from my life and travel to the other side of the world.

Now mind you, it is approximately a day and a half commute to the other side of the world, and another day and a half back… So I automatically lose three days in commute alone, there is also the International Date Line that screws up internal clocks. In all I was only able to spend six days in the other side of the world. But I did it because I felt that if my grandfather was at death’s door, I would rather see him alive as opposed to in a coffin.

What ended up happening became so much more than seeing my grandfather, I was able to connect with my grandmother and soon built an emotional connection to her. Even though there was a bit of a issue with the communication barrier, I never had so much fun with my grandparents, and seeing the look on her face when I came by to visit (I stayed at a hotel close by) made me realize just how happy she was to see her grandchildren there.

How many people would fly to the other side of the world knowing ahead of time that you would only be there for a week? Who would go knowing that there would be a chance that you would get sick and could be bedridden for the duration of your trip? That happened to me on my first trip there, being confined to bed due to illness for half of my stay in a foreign country, but that’s a different story.

If there is one thing I learned in my trips to the ‘old country’ it is that life is too short to worry about death, especially when the loved ones are still around and kicking. You start worrying about the future you start to miss out on the world around you.

A decade ago I remember staying up all night because I was worried about what would happen when people died. I mean do you just cease to exist? What would happen to your loved ones? What is death like? Over time I started to realize that in worrying about something as sure as death was rather silly and stupid, but on the other hand crying over missed opportunities was also silly and stupid. Thus the creation of a ‘bucket list’ in college and my endeavors since then.

In my studies of various mythologies and religions I started to speculate the concept of reincarnation and the possibility of an afterlife… And decided that we, as humans, are in fact immortal in a way. We are meant to reproduce, and as long as we continue to reproduce then who we are now would eventually be “reincarnated” by our descendants generations down the road. A romantic notion to be sure, but haven’t humans been searching for the fabled fountain of youth for centuries?

Take it a step further for those of us not willing to reproduce. Humans are meant to connect and interact, so to those of us that are interconnecting, a piece of us passes on via the people that we have made an impact on. Isn’t that another form of immortality?

Eventually, the idea of death didn’t seem to be quite so daunting. And all the quotes of living life to the fullest? Kind of difficult if you are not financially free… So I gave myself a compromise: that I would go to bed every night saying ‘well that was fun, but now it is time to rest’.

One other saying that struck me is that we all came into the world crying while everyone around us was laughing and happy… So isn’t it about time that if and when it is our time to die we do so laughing and happy while everyone around us is crying?

But why cry over the death of a loved me if they are happy to pass? To me crying over the dying is almost selfish in a way… isn’t it? I mean if they are willing to go… Why cry? What purpose does it serve? Especially if they are the ones reassuring the healthy that everything’s fine?

I don’t know about you but I think I would rather go to sleep every night knowing that if I don’t wake up in the morning, at least I would leave knowing that I have lived a full life with no regrets. Have you?

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