It Will Be Hard to Leave
I will be sucking life’s marrow ’til the very end
The last few weeks have been hellish in this country. We’ve seen the worst of human nature on display, not only in the shooters, but in many of the people responding to the shootings. We’ve seen a government paralyzed, incapable of taking action despite so many people hurting. This is the human race. We are as hateful and power-hungry and irrational as we are caring and loving and problem-solving.
None of what has happened is new, of course, but the quick succession of the two shootings and the fact that the second one involved young kids, makes it hard not to feel bludgeoned. And furious. And helpless. And hopeless. Quite honestly, it doesn’t feel like a bad time to call it quits.
Since my ALS diagnosis I have been somewhat cavalier about my impending death. I haven’t fought it. I’m not happy about my body weakening, but so far I have found the journey to be more interesting than alarming. The thought of death itself has seemed peaceful.
I once worked as a hospice volunteer, sitting with dying patients and talking to them, sometimes helping them record their memories. The experience was very illuminating, but not in the way I expected. What I learned was how difficult it is to die. It takes effort and concentration to sever the life connection. One story we volunteers were told in our training was about a man who was near death and comatose. His family had gathered to say goodbye. One person arrived who was exceptionally loud. The man awakened and spoke. “Shut up,” he said. “I’m trying to die.” Stories abound about dying people who cannot succumb until their loved ones have left the room. Most people cling to life even when death is clearly inevitable.
I have looked at what is happening across the planet, everywhere the worst of human nature prevailing — dictators, mass murder, genocide, war — and it seems as if these things should make the passage from life to death easier. But I can already see that, when the time comes, I will be loathe to go. I, too, will hold on fiercely.
I write now looking out at a misty morning on a quiet ocean bay, the water glassine, seals popping up, honking geese passing through, sea lions growling on…