Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cheating Death

After my post of March 4th, I started thinking of how many times I have been in the position of believing I was about to die. A surprising number. All of them have occurred since I became a widow. During my marriage, such a thought never entered my mind. Ralph and I were going to live forever - or at least a very long time. We sometimes talked of "...when we celebrate our 50th anniversary" or of what life would be like then. (Our 50th anniversary was October 26, 2007, when he had been gone for 32 years.)

If you find it tiresome to hear older people talk about their medical experiences, stop reading now.

In 1980 I was out in the woods with my friend, Wyetta. We had seen a nice little tree that I really wanted to have in my yard. She owned the property we were on, and encouraged me to dig it up and carry it home. I had a small, long handled spade, and started to dig. I felt fine until I paused for a moment in my digging. Suddenly I broke out in a cold sweat. She told me I went very pale. I couldn't get my breath, and my vision started to go into a tunnel. It wasn't a dark tunnel, it was sparkling like gold, but I could no longer see. I thought I was going to faint, which was a first for me, so I sat down on the ground. I was quite sure that I was having a heart attack, and that I was going to die. I could hear Wyetta's alarmed voice asking what was wrong, and despite my certainty that I was dying, I wanted to reassure her, but I couldn't speak. As in the incident in the car, I was not afraid, but was annoyed because of our location. I pictured the Emergency Squad trying to carry their equipment along the narrow, brambly path to get to me and then carrying the stretcher back. The poor guys!

Eventually, my vision cleared and I regained my breath, but I was so weak that I couldn't stand up. At last I could speak to calm Wyetta's fears, but I had to just sit there for a long time. After some time, I sort of climbed the handle of the spade, to a standing position. I started walking back toward my car, but could only go a few steps at a time, resting between efforts. When I reached the car, I sat there a while, then finally drove the short way home, and sat some more in the garage. I made it to the sofa, where I stayed for a solid week, too weak to climb up to my bedroom. The girls brought me food and took care of things until, at the week's end, I felt I could move around more. At the time this happened I had no insurance, and money was tight, and I never went to a doctor. I remembered my husband's first heart attack, when the only thing the doctor prescribed was complete bed rest, so that's what I did. Years later, when I was working and did go to doctors, I told them about this incident. They agreed I probably had a mild heart attack, but we'll never know for sure.

A few years later, I was in Cape May City when I saw the beginning of a gorgeous sunset developing. I grabbed my camera and hurried as fast as I could toward a spot which I knew was ideal for viewing the sun going down. I jumped out of the car and started toward the shore, through deep, soft sand which dragged me down. Suddenly I felt exactly as I had those years before. I stopped immediately and sat down. This time the feeling passed quickly, without further incident.

In the year 2000, I was diagnosed with cancer. The doctor didn't try to sugar coat it. But again, I wasn't particularly worried about it. What would happen, would happen. My children were worried, but I was not.

In 2002 I had a pulmonary embolism. The nasty doctor kept telling me, "Don't move! Lie perfectly still! Don't stretch, don't massage, don't exercise in any way, just lie still or the clot will move and it will kill you." I was miserable - not because I worried about dying, but because of the terrible doctor whose thinking was stuck back in the Middle Ages I think. I shrugged off the thought of death. Again, if it happened, it happened. So what.

Then in 2006 I had a heart cath, and they tried to talk me into a by-pass. I said no to that. Then they said at least I needed angioplasty. OK. The doctor let me know that he wasn't sure I would make it through this one. At 74, I figured I'd had a long, full, happy life, so that was OK too. I don't understand why people are so worried about dying. I never was, but once having reached the seventies, most of your friends have gone before you. How can you be surprised that it might be your turn? That's the way things go. You live your life, and then you die. It's the natural order of things.

If I were very young, or if my husband were alive, or if my children were still very small, I'm sure I would feel differently. But those things are not so, and I'm not going to waste my time wondering how it would be in one of those situations. You start from wherever you are, and go on from there. If and when I literally "go on" I will welcome it. I think of it as life's last great adventure. It's rather exciting to think about. I'm in no hurry, but when the time comes, I'll go happily enough. There are many people ready and anxious to tell us what comes next. I don't believe anyone on this earth knows that for sure, and am really rather curious to find out. Not curious enough to find out prematurely, but it will be interesting to learn for myself, all in good time.


Speaking of life and death, have you noticed how the numbers on the sidebar for those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to climb - ever so slowly, but still climb.

The next Blogblast for Peace will be on November 5. Why not give it a try?


kenju said...

Yours is the second blog post about death I've read this morning. Ronni Bennett has a post on it too.

Daryl said...

I am rather fa-klempt reading this ... losing The Aunt mid-February I was so distracted I forgot the anniversary of Mom's passing .. this morning I got an email from my cousin (The Aunt's grandaughter) who said 'I dont want comfort, I just want to tell you I miss her so much, it just feels surreal' .. she's not 30 yet and her losses have been small... I am twice her age and have lost both parents, a few good friends and relatives .. so I understand your post all too well .. there comes a time when going isnt scary, its almost comforting to know so many who you love and have missed will be with you again .. at least I hope so.

This is a beautiful post, Bobbie, straight from the heart

Kay said...

Thank you for this post, Bobbie. I feel like you're talking to me personally. I admire your outlook on life. I have a lot to learn from you.

Shady Gardener said...

Bobbie, I am so grateful for your post. We don't know what lies ahead of us... but we're not called to worry about it. We are to take one day at a time, as there's enough to think about during each day.

I am so grateful for my friends. I feel as though they were placed in my life for a variety of reasons.

I appreciate your caring heart.

Dawn Fine said...

Nice post Bobbie..

Mimi Lenox said...

Bobbie - I clicked over when I found a BlogBlast For Peace link on my technorati page. What I found was really inspiring. I felt as if I was right along beside you planting that little tree. Much of what you said has put my own mind to rest - I've been going through a few things lately and so has my best friend- this help immensely.

You've got it all.
God bless.

P.S.Thank you for plugging peace globes.