Death at My Doorstep
Today, my neighbor died.
I was there in her living room with her daughter, who has become a friend over the years, listening as the paramedics worked to revive her unresponsive pulse. I heard them call out for the fourth defibrillation. The danger-averting shout of “CLEAR” each time. It was just like on tv. Only, much more sad.
The only deaths I’ve experienced first-hand were that of loved ones at the end of hard-fought battles with cancer. I remember my father’s last belabored breath in the hospital room and the disturbing, distinctive curdle of my grandmother’s “death rattle” days before she died in her own room. Nearly sixteen years later, I can easily recall both sounds, clear as day.
Today, death came quickly, without any prior notice, to an acquaintance who lives across the street. A heart attack in the middle of the day, in the middle of a kitchen. The lead medic’s words to his team:”Let’s call it. We’re done. You did a good job, men” will ring in my head for years to come.
Certainly, I am reminded of the fragility of life, the quickness of its passing and the commitment we all must have to live each day to the fullest. But I’m also humbled by death’s lack of poetry. It requires rubber gloves and clean-up rags. It involves a lot of names and phone numbers. And afterwards, the neighbors go home, kiss their children a few extra times and order pizza for dinner.
And yes. Death still waits in all of our bushes.
But when death comes a callin’ to my house, don’t anyone cry (too hard) for me. Sure, I stress about my start-up, I worry all the time about my kids, I stay up too late working at night, I drink too much coffee in the morning, and I never find time to go to that hot yoga class down the street.
But here’s the thing. As I sit here tonight, pondering the meaning of life, I really am doing everything I want to do.
Sure, I’m strange for not wanting to sit on a beach and stare out at the surf but I like the stress, the worry and the To Do lists (as well as the giggles, cartwheels and inappropriate jokes I regularly — and secretly — share with my family). Isn’t that the purpose of life? To live the life you want to live? Who really wants to spend an hour of their day sweating in a god-foresaken stinky room with their hands wrapped around their ankles mumbling “namaste” into their armpits??!
When death comes a knockin’, he’ll find me drinking that second glass of wine.
Carol, your passing does not go unnoticed. Cheers to your full 74 years.
Rest In Peace. July 19, 2013