Print Story Inevitability
Death
By MartiniPhilosopher (Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 07:52:27 AM EST) (all tags)
My parents put down their cat of 22 years this morning. My mother thinks she suffered a stroke at some point early in the morning due to her inability to balance or walk properly but being able to do such last night. Their vet commented in passing the last couple of yearly exams as to what, exactly, was in the water which allowed for the cats to keep going at their rather advanced age.


Perspective, as Douglas Adams would have it, is not something that humans can live with very easily. Realizing you are a mote of dust, living on a larger mote of dust, living within a slightly larger mote of dust in the vastness of the cosmos is not something can fit easily within the confines of the human imagination, let alone the present consciousness of everyday thought. I would like to argue that inevitability is another category of experience that is just as hard to place successfully within the human mind.

For example, family friends of ours, people we have known for over twenty-five years now have an aging matriarch. She has been very much a fifth grandmother to me and my sister without all of the mucking about and complexity that divorce can bring into the picture. Last year at our annual Fourth of July celebration she and I had a very strange conversation where I found myself at a complete loss to respond to. After I had greeted her and sat to talk with her for a while, she simply blurted out that considering how all things were going right now, she was happy and contented and ready to die. This was not my first encounter with such personal expressions but it was the first time someone of 80+ years of life behind them had done so. And to me alone. It had the air of a confession, an awkwardness to the circumstance which caused a pause in thought and response. It was for all intents and purposes the complete and total acceptance of inevitability.

To which I had no response. I hugged her and told her that she is loved. What else could I have said? Tell her that she was wrong? That there were things to still live for? It was not as if she was wishing for death to visit. Merely saying that should it decide to come along there would not be any fight from her. Nothing, absolutely nothing in my life has ever prepared me for the shocking weight of her statement. Emotionally or intellectually. I am not sure that there was a correct way to respond to such. Mostly out of the fact that I have not, nor can I yet, accept the same inevitability for myself. But I am beginning to see it for others.

I had just turned twenty when we got together in St. Louis to celebrate my great-grandmother's 100th birthday. The nursing home that she was living in was not the worst place I had seen but on the whole it was unpleasant place to visit. Mostly these days I think I did not like to visit because it stank of that same inevitability. To that person who I was a decade a go, inevitability was complete anathema.

Only my great-grandmother knows (knew?) for certain how much of that day was recognizable. From my perspective at the time this must have been a confusing affair. I could not then and still can not imagine, given her state at the time, that there was much beyond the fact that people around her were having a good time which seeped through to the aged person sitting in that wheelchair. I felt a hot, fiery rage boil up from deep inside at the indignity of age. This had been a vital person at some point. The pictures brought to the event to help spur along some happier memories were proof of that. Yet as she held my arm in her fragile, cool hand I could not help but feel that she was looking at some other person from that same past. In that instant, I wanted nothing more than for the inevitable to occur. To give this person nothing more than the succor that I felt she deserved. It was a hard afternoon for me to get through with more questions than answers, more feelings than thought.

Inevitability is something we can come to accept but from what I have seen, it is a personal thing, an individual thing that has to occur.

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I am reminded... by ana (4.00 / 1) #1 Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 08:44:44 AM EST

...of a family reunion my dad organized some years ago now. I suppose he was in his late 60's, and he'd recently re-discovered some of his cousins, living in Arizona all these years.

The three eldest attendees, all of them 80, were a study in contrast. His older sister M was very frail, in a wheel chair, and she passed on later that year. Still very alert, but fading fast. His cousin V had been rather badly smashed in a car accident the previous year, and so was getting around with a walker, but she was definitely on the mend, getting stronger, and looking forward to unaided locomotion. E, the cousin who'd come in from Arizona, was out playing tennis.

Earlier this year (/me refers the unaware reader to diaries from January for context) toxicfur and I had this conversation where we both of us allowed as how we'd tried to, and simply could not, imagine what facing one's own immanent demise would be like. Still can't, having witnessed it at close range. Death is at least as individual as life, I think.

And condolences on the cat.

"And this ... is a piece of Synergy." --Kellnerin

Old kitties and death. by nightflameblue (4.00 / 1) #2 Fri Apr 25, 2008 at 09:06:32 AM EST
We had a cat that made it four, almost five years past her life expectancy.  The vet, every year at her exam, would say she was the oldest of her breed he'd ever seen and he didn't get how she stayed so fiesty.

She apparently suffered the same type of stroke as the kitty you mentioned.  As one day she just couldn't stand up and walk around anymore.  It was rough holding her as they administered the final drug to her, but I didn't want her facing that alone.

My great-grandma had a pretty easy-going attitude towards death once great-grandpa went on his way.  We talked at length about it on more than one occassion.  She just kept saying, "I don't care about dying.  I mean, it's gonna happen.  I just don't want to end up in a nursing home, unable to take care of myself before I go."  She had a lot more to say as the years passed about it.  Watching her friends go, one by one made her even more ready.  But she never said she was anxious for it.  Just, accepting.

Gave me a nice perspective in my twenties that it isn't forever.  That eventually, I'll be in her position.

I can't say I'm ready to die today like I was at one time in my life.  Something about married life makes me want to stick around a while longer.  But I don't get the feeling I need to nash and wail against death anymore like I did as a young teen either.  It's just a presence, out there in the distance.  I'll get there eventually.  In the meantime, I've got other things to occupy my mind.

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