Monday, August 12, 2013

Thoughts on Dying




On late Saturday, when I woke up from my two hour afternoon nap at 5 o'clock I had the feeling of "going down."  Ever had that feeling?  What is the feeling of "going down?"  I think you know, it's the feeling like you're going to die.  

At m age (71), when I see so many names in the obituary of the local paper with ages younger than mine.  When every year I attend my high school class reunion there are a few less members from my class of 1959.  When high school friends of mine who I am still close with are daily facing the challenges of failing health, death is something I think about more often.

Am I ready for death?  Yes, in my mind I am because I am convinced (98% anyway) that once I die either one of two things will happen:

Nothing
I will go to Heaven

I don't buy the man made religious propaganda of modern times that one has to fall on your knees every Sunday and "Praise the Lord" in order to gain entry into Heaven.  With all due respect to my friends, relatives and nice folk who read this blog who believe otherwise, I just don't believe it. Call it Free Will or whatever, but it is a theory that just doesn't make sense to me.




When my long time friend Bill B. tells me that the notorious murderer Ted Bundy will get to Heaven before I do because he "accepted Jesus Christ" before he was executed but the nice little old lady who never did anything wrong in her life will not go to Heaven because she didn't accept Jesus Christ....just doesn't make sense.  And as Judge Judy says "If it doesn't make sense, it's usually not true."  

So as I awoke from my slumber Saturday afternoon I felt like I was dying.  That's the feeling one gets when one is passing a kidney stone, you're "going down."  And if you're not going down, you WANT to go down just to end the pain.

I tried to work through it.  I walked around trying to convince myself I had gas but it just wasn't working.  I was going down, down and down.  I told Bill "I'm not feeling well."  I guess I knew I was passing another kidney stone (my 3rd) but I didn't want to believe that, especially after writing a blog entry about my ambulance trip to the hospital in 1959.  

I went into my home office and brought out a picture frame that I had purchased earlier in the day at Walmart. I took the glass out and was cleaning it when the urge to purge came up.  I ran to my bathroom and almost made it to my toilet and threw up.  Some of my tomato soup lunch got on the bathroom wall next to the toilet and some on the tile floor below (no pictures).  That did it.  I knew I was passing a kidney stone.  Damn!

I went back into the kitchen and told Bill "I'm calling 911 for an ambulance." He said "I'll drive you down."  I said "I can't do that because I'll just be sitting in the emergency room for hours and I won't last.  I'm going down fast.  I can't wait."

By the way, I wasn't talking calmly like I'm talking now.  I'm bent over and barely getting my words out, the pain was that great.  

The thought went through my mind "What if I lived way out in the country?  I would surely die if I didn't get immediate attention, or at least pain killers."  Folks, the pain make you go crazy.  I cannot emphasize how great the pain of a kidney stone is.  If our government knew how to harness this pain they would get every terrorist in Guantanamo Bay to confess to anything they wanted.  The power to inflict pain like this is a Dick Cheney dream.   But I digress.

But back to dying.  I hope when I die I don't go like the pain I experienced last Saturday when I was passing that kidney stone.  I hope I die like my cousin Randy who just died in his sleep this past March.  Randy is pictured at the top of this blog with his mother, my aunt.  Both are gone now.  Randy was six years younger than me and in good health.  He wasn't ill.  In fact, he was in better health than I am now.  So, you just never know. Randy's wife sent me a note saying that Randy had always hoped that he would die in his sleep and not like his mother, who lingered in a nursing home in the dementia unit for many years before she died at age 89.  However she said, "it was still too soon."  

None of us can predict when we die unless it is by our own hand.  However, one thing I do know, that when I die it will be a release not only from pain but from the never ending sadness I have from the sense of loss of so many of my loved ones, both relatives and friends and pets who are no longer here.  I may have gotten relief from the extreme pain of this past Saturday that was caused by my kidney stone passing but the only "relief" that I will get from the never ending pain that is always in my background now of the loss of my loved ones is the sweet release of death.  That is why I am not afraid of death itself, only how I get there.  


Me with my Mother and Father

In the meantime, while I am living I intend to make every day count.  No wasted days.  Also I will not waste my time on meaningless activity like arguing arguments that will not change anyone's minds.  Seeking friendships where there is none.  And trying to please those who nothing you do will please them ever, and not live my life according to someone else's definition of how I should live my life.  

What I will do is value, appreciate and reciprocate the friendships that I do have. I will make productive use of my time in activities that are meaningful, productive and appreciated.  What I won't do is live my life according to someone else's definition of how I should live my life.  


Me with one of my dogs who is patiently waiting for me in Heaven

An experience like I had this weekend is just another reminder of how fragile and valuable life is and how we should always treasure every day we have of good health and freedom.  And when our time has come to an end, and it surely will for everyone one us, we can go to the Great Unknown (and no one knows The Answer), with the knowledge that we have lived according to our own Truth.  If there is a Heaven, I am quite sure no one is going to be at St. Peter's Gate checking to see how many times you went to church or how many souls you saved.  Worry about your own self and let the others take care of themselves.  

If you live a life of kindness and respect towards others, those pearly gates should be open to you as well.  That's all that is needed folks for a life well lived.  

For a while this past Saturday night I was ready to go. And I can say with all honesty, I was at peace with myself and ready to go.  



21 comments:

  1. Working in a hospital I see death every day, almost to the point to where you become immune. Then my husband died 5 months ago, at work, and was gone before he hit the ground and it brought me to my knees. I to believe that God and I have a good relationship, I don't need to agree with everything my church tells me(Catholic) because there is no way I could. But God and I have had many good talks and even arguments..though one sided. I firmly believe that once I am done with this body my husband, dad and everyone else will be somewhere just waiting for me, looking healthy and young.

    And by the way I totally understand that pain and a ambulance is always the best choice since we take them first :)

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    1. Judy,

      I understand and respect those folks who find comfort in their religion especially when it comes to facing and dealing with death. I do not advocate changing their views. However, I have well meaning friends who have preached to me that I am not truly "saved" until I accept Jesus Christ as my savior and thus cannot gain entrance to Heaven. I disagree strongly with them. Of course I don't know for sure what happens when we die but I do have a strong feeling that either one of two things will happen, which is total peace of Nothingness (and relief from the pain of loss) or reuniting with my loved ones in a place called Heaven. My brother is a pastor and I see the comfort and peace his religion gives him. However, he respects me and does not preach to me unlike some of my friends who say they only care about my "afterlife." My complaint is that they should place their concern on their own lives and not mine, I will make my own decision.

      I am glad that you find comfort in your religion and church. In fact I am glad for anyone who finds comfort in their beliefs whether it be Bhudda of Allah.

      Please accept my condolences on the loss of your husband. I never really felt the pain of the loss of a loved on until that little dog I was holding in the photo of this blog died. Maybe I shouldn't feel that way about a pet but the loss of her really hit me hard and I can't quite explain why because I've lost other pets. The only way I could get through her loss was with the belief that I may see her again. I know if I do then that will be truly Heaven.

      Thank you for your comment.

      Ron

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  2. Ron - I think it's normal to have these thoughts - maybe more so when we have real uphill challenges, depression, or, other circumstances that give way to contemplation. I can only remember once being so sick I too wished I could fade away. Other times. less ill but maybe suffering some dis-ease, I've been scared. I find, however, the more I am able to simply accept my discomforts (when they are prominent) - like feeling unwell, lonely, too hyper, whatever, - I feel more genuinely peaceful. Your writing always enriches me. Thank you.

    Pat

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    1. Pat,

      When I was younger, I rarely thought of death. Like most young people, I thought I was going to live forever. Even when I had my near death experience when I was 17 years old, I didn't realize at that time how close I came to death. I didn't know that until about seven years later and then didn't take it too seriously. However, at my age now with so many of my friends and relatives now gone, I think sooner or later this musical chair game of life is going to catch me one chair short.

      I've felt the same feelings your felt. A few times I was so sick I wanted to just "fade away" too. A few years ago I had such a bad cold that I could hardly breath at night, that scared me.

      By the way, I hope you don't feel as lonely in the future. We're friends. I like you Pat.

      Ron

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  3. I think you have exactly the right attitude. Your free will mirrors my own. I try to live as if every day is my last, and I pray too, that when I go, it will be fast and painless. Deep post, Ron.

    Peace <3
    Jay

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    1. Jay,

      Every now and then one of these "deep posts" wells up out of me. I just have to get it out.

      Even though I may seem non religious, I have been known to pray. Probably to my guardian angel or Something, I just know I feel relief when I pray. The last two times I passed a kidney stone I thought I was going out. In fact I was ready, because I felt to helpless and I just wanted the pain to stop. My episode this past Saturday got me to thinking again about death and the unexpected passing of my young, healthy cousin really got me to thinking. I've lived a good, long life so I have no regrets that I missed anything and I am ready to go but I would like to be around at least for next year's Bloggerpalooza. I already have all the "fun" stuff for the "gift presentations." Don't want to miss that.

      Ron

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  4. Ron,
    What a wonderful way to look at an event none of us can avoid. Over the years, especially when I was younger I had a fear of dying. That changed as I got older I became less and less fearful to a point now that like you, I want a peaceful quiet exit. I have at times experienced illnesses that have threatened my life, one in particular was hepatitis A (thank God) but not knowing what I had I went almost a month before going to the doctor. When I finally got into the hospital for a 28 day stay I was down to 125 lbs. and just barely alive. As of late when things occur I just accept them and figure that my body is going to do what it wants to do. I am not sure I would even go to the extent that you just did with the pellets. I watched my mother turn 100 in good health and in almost 12 month endure more pain than I could imagine, even worse than kidney stones. She went through amputation, antibiotic infusion for almost 3 months all to rid herself of the infection that took her in the end anyway. She was physically strong enough to linger with no medications except pain management for almost 5 months. The result? A lousy quality of life. She was ready to go and we were ready to see her go. IMHO, quality of life is where it's at. If I can't maintain some semblance then I'll go where I can get it. Problem is I'm genetically programmed to probably live a long life, most of my relatives from both sides lived into their late 80's, 90's and of course 3 made it to 100. Sorry for the long comment.
    Jack

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    1. Jack,

      Like you, my fear of death lessened as I became older. My only fear is of being in extreme pain and dependence on others before I go. That's why when my time comes, as it will inevitably for all of us, I hope my demise is fast and painless with minimal disruption of the lives of those around me.

      I cannot imagine what your grandmother went through; "12 months of more pain, even worse than kidney stones." I just could not bear it Jack. And I think I have a high pain threshold.

      You're right, it is the quality of life. Both my parents were concerned about that at the end of their lives. Fortunately neither one of them had to suffer like your grandmother did.

      When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, initially I wasn't going to do anything. After all my urologist told me "Mr. Tipton, at your age if you do have prostate cancer you will most probably die of another cause." However, living a year with that dark cloud over my head I decided to at least give the cure a chance. However, if my prostate cancer comes back I am not seeking further treatment. I'm not going down that road of spending the rest of my life with various prostate cancer treatments. Luckily for me my prostate cancer seems to be receding.

      Ron


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  5. You've covered a lot of things in this sobering post, all of which I can fully identify with. I have no clue what happens after we die. The conventional idea of heaven sounds more like hell to me. I certainly don't believe in an afterlife hell. True hell is what we endure here on earth. It seems that the older I get, the less I understand anything.

    I love your positive attitude of making your time count and having no wasted days. I value life a lot more now than I used to, since time is no longer on my side. And after having lost lots of friends and most of my relatives, I appreciate how fragile and transitory life really is.

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    1. Well said Jon. I believe as you do, I have no clue what happens after we die but I certainly don't believe in the mad-made propaganda belief of Hell as punishment for not getting on your knees every Sunday and "praising the Lord." That to me, with all due respect to those who find comfort in their religion, is just so much BS. To me, much of conventional religion is just another way for one group of human beings (almost always men) to control others with the promise of the Hereafter if they endure this Hell on earth. And yes, I do believe if there is a Hell it is while we're alive. There are different variations of Hell but there isn't one person alive who hasn't experienced some kind of "Hell" during their lifetime.

      I too value life a lot more that I did when I was young. Then my life consisted of living for the weekends and then being disappointed with a "is that all there is?" attitude. Now that I am older, I appreciate the real value of life like this morning when I was working with Miguel, my landscaper, out in my backyard. To others what I did this morning may seem like work; but to me working in the early morning air with just the early morning breeze was as close to Heaven as I can get on earth. Seeing the hard work that Miguel (Mexican) is putting in even though he got stung by a yellow jacket yesterday and his arm is swollen, made me appreciate life even more. Of such "small things" I appreciate today, and tomorrow and until I die.

      Ron

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    2. What a beautiful response to my comment. Thank you!

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  6. I was reading this short article this morning, very relevant to this post :
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sharon-hill/ask-a-skeptic-fade-to-bla_b_3729060.html
    The comments are very good too.

    Religion, seeing psychics... is comforting for a lot of people. A strong belief brings them a sense of control over their life. Make sure your papers are in order (if that makes you feel better to do so), house cleaned up of crap... (it will make it easier for your loved ones who will have to go through all your material possessions...) then you just have to accept that what will be will be.

    I always loved Joseph Campbell. Here is what he said about life and consciousness :

    “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That’s what it’s all finally about ..."

    xcerpt From: Joseph Campbell & Bill Moyers. “The Power of Myth.”



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    1. Nadege,

      I am so glad I wrote this post on dying. I hadn't planned on writing it but after my experience this past weekend, thoughts of dying again came into my head. What I write in my blog is my catharsis, I have to write what is burbling up inside me. My post on dying has triggered some very interesting responses, yours being among the most interesting. I had forgotten about Joseph Campbell. I've heard of him but I don't think I ever read any of his writings. Your Joseph Campbell quote is very thought provoking. I tend to agree with Mr. Campbell. I'll have to get his book "The Power of Myth." Thank you Nadege for your always thoughtful comments.

      Ron

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  7. Anonymous3:40 PM

    Hi Ron,

    I am so glad you are feeling better! I totally agree with your post. I strive to be the best person I can every day of my life. Death does disburb me at times. Last week I lost my aunt at 94 years of age. I have one more left who's 90. After that, there are no aunts or uncles left on either side of my family. That means my cousins & I are the next generation to go. It's scary when you realize your fate is coming down the line. Til then, I will continue to live my life as you do. I'm grateful for every moment, good or bad. Take care Ron.

    Fran

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    1. Fran,

      We think alike, you and I. Yes it is scary when you realize it is your turn. I just got up from a very deep nap. Whenever I awake from a good night's sleep or a deep afternoon nap, I feel like I have awakened from the dead. I think when you die is just like going to sleep and never waking up. That's why when I'm awake I try to make each and every day mean something. Like you, I've lost so many relatives and friends the past five years. Life is like a game of musical chairs. I've been lucky so far that when the music has stopped so far, there has been a chair for me. But I knew eventually one of these days there won't be a chair for me. I do not fear that, it is my time. I do not fear the unknown. But I think what I do fear is the "known", meaning a long, drawn out painful, humiliating and dependent death. I've seen those and I hope that's not me. But if I die like my cousin Randy, that's all right with me. By the way, I've decided to have my funeral at Parsells in Lewes. Originally I was going to have it at the James Terry Funeral Home in Downingtown but I've been in Delaware long enough to consider it my home. I'll still be buried on the side of a wooded hill overlooking Downingtown at the Northwood Cemetery. I bought two lots there when my father died in 2000. That will be my final resting place along with Bill.

      Thank you for your comments Fran. Always good to hear from you.

      Ron

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  8. This is one of the most beautiful posts I've ever read. Thank you so much.

    And I'm glad you're feeling better. The couple of times I've had to take my mother to the hospital with kidney stones it was exactly as you described, she literally dropped to the floor with the pain.

    -Michelle

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    1. Thank you very much Michelle.

      Believe me, passing a kidney stone is something you do not want to experience. I always considered myself to have a high pain threshold but passing a kidney stone will literally drop you to your knees in pain. It is the most intense pain I've ever felt in my life. The second time I experienced it I actually told them that if they couldn't stop the pain then just kill me. Anything to put me out of my misery. I'm glad it's over.

      Ron

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  9. An hour ago, I narrowly avoided a head-on collision when an oncoming car pulled suddenly into my lane. I hit the brakes, waited, and at the last nanosecond gunned into the clear. No idea what the other driver's problem was --drunk, drugged, suicidal or texting-- but I got home. Thought of your post, which I read last night, and decided this applied. I had no thought of an afterlife; was all adrenalin and attention. Certainly faith can comfort, but I didn't appeal to the next life to remain in this one --just used reflexes I'd forgot I had.

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    1. Geo.,

      Thank God you avoided an accident! I've been in a few myself, none serious. But I know how easy they can happen. It's almost like your time is up.

      Many years ago when I was driving on a Saturday night, which in retrospect I had no business being out, a drunk driver roared through a red light and came within inches of broadsided me. Like you my adrenalin kicked in and I used reflexes that I didn't know I had and I swung my car over to the grass median and narrowly avoided a serious accident. It took me quite a while to come down from that near miss. I know just how you felt tonight.

      This is one reason I avoid driving at night. Minimize my chances of an accident. But if your time is up, it's up. Thank goodness your time wasn't up tonight.

      Ron

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  10. So, you had another one? Ouch. My last one passed in 2012 on my birthday, no less, yes - Happy Birthday! So far all has been good. You know I feel your pain after passing 7 of the little darlings over the years. It never gets easier.

    Glad you're feeling better.

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    1. Oh yeah, I passed another. It never gets easier does it? This one was the biggest yet .4 millimeters however it wasn't as jagged. It literally "popped" out of me. This was #3 and the last I believe. The only good thing that came of this was being comforted by the hunky ER guy in the ambulance during the ride down to the emergency room. I would have enjoyed the ride more if I wasn't dying, barfing, and shortness of breath. I was a mess.

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