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Death Talking

This post is triggered by several unrelated posts, including one about an accidental death.

I've mourned at least 5 people in the past year, and over a dozen since 2000. Some died slowly, some instantly, some after a long and fruitless struggle to get effective treatment. Some I knew well, some were kin, some were friends of friends or acquaintances.

Some folks are very uncomfortable discussing mortality, either their own or someone else's. Not me, not anymore.

People that I've worked with over the years have been rather uncomfortable with the fact that I openly advocate cross training and documentation to mitigate the "Mack Truck Factor" - the fact that any one may get run over by a Mack Truck and be suddenly *gone*, and the business and people around them still need to survive. But I've seen what happens when there isn't any such thing, and the "essential person" gets a great new job, has a health or family emergency, or simply dies.

I've had the experience of living for over a year with the functional equivalent of a ticking time bomb planted in my head, and no way to find out how much time was left on the timer. The fact that it partially detonated as it was being defused just put a finer point on the situation.

I've had the experience of *knowing*, within six months, of when a person would die of illness/health problems, on several occasions. I've also learned to keep the knowledge to only those who can deal with it.

I will always advocate an annual "review" of your mortality plans. I wrote my first will when I was a teenager. I try to remember to fill out the donor card with my drivers' license. I have a living will and POA. My remains wishes are known (cremate and scatter, or plant something in the urn), my life insurance has the desired beneficiaries (IIRC), and while I have relatively little stuff of value, most of that would go to datapard or my niece.

I commute to work every day, I live in an earthquake zone, and every activity has its risks. I would rather die enjoying my life than cowering in fear. I take calculated risks, and actually stop to calculate.

I don't need the government to tell me to protect myself, just to make sure that the tools I need are there to do so. I think seat belt and helmet wearing laws are wrong, but that the availability of functional seat belts and good helmets should be mandated. In short, I think that the government should protect people from the negligence or malice of others, but leave them free to make their own mistakes, even fatal ones.

In short, I advocate being aware of your own mortality, prepare for it, then go out and enjoy your life to the fullest. When you live each day as if it *could* be your last, you fret over small stuff a little less, and enjoy life just a little bit more.

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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
lisa_marli
May. 17th, 2006 09:30 pm (UTC)
I do all of the above and remember to say "I love you" to the people closest to me often. Even if you can't tie all the knots, at least leave the least number open and flapping in the gale.

This has been a rotten year. Now a second memorial at Baycon. Two creative, wonderful ladies gone.
ravan
May. 17th, 2006 09:33 pm (UTC)
The "In Memorium" page in the SiliCon Program book is too long this year, IMO.
just_the_ash
May. 17th, 2006 09:56 pm (UTC)
My husband's email sig
One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name.
-- from "The Call" by Thomas Osbert Mordaunt (1730-1809)
heethen_crone
May. 17th, 2006 10:52 pm (UTC)
Well put, as usual.
jilara
May. 17th, 2006 11:42 pm (UTC)
Yeah, we've been having too much of this lately. But I'm used to it, since I've had so much Death stalking next to me, my entire life, such that a friend back in the early '80's once nicknamed me "Stormcrow" and commented "people around you die too much." Gives you perspective on what it must have been like for our ancestors.

But it seems like we've lost far too many of the brightest lights of talent, lately...
jemyl
May. 18th, 2006 01:47 am (UTC)
Well said! One would think that losing two close family members in the same month, even though no surprise would make me used to seeing an average of one friend or acquaintance a week in the obits, and it doesn't quite. The older I get the more I see friends leaving.

Like you, I have made some plans for my demise. I have a will, which now will need to be redone but which still had the contingency of Bill's pre-deceasing me built in. I, too, want to have my organs, all that can be used, and my cadaver also donated to be recycled into other humans. I wasn't a recycling coordinator for nothing. LOL My eyes go to the Lions Eyebank though.

As for what remains after the local university and Lions and organ harvesting organizations have used what they can, I want them cremated and my ashes scattered over my property. That is legal in this state. Provided I live beyond the sale of this or Gma's property, my headstone will already be part of the family plot in Hawthorne Cemetery and only the date of death will need to be added.

Having had a "near death" experience (Please, no flaming. I know what I believe about that and you won't change my mind.) I have a pretty good idea of what will happen to my essence at death. Thus I do not fear death. I also hope that I can go with as much love and dignity as Bill did. To die in my lover's arms with his kiss on my lips sharing a last hug is much to be desired. For me, like Bill, death will bring peace so is nothing to fear.

Knowing that, I, like you, Ravan, live my life to the fullest. I also agree about helmets and seat belts. What I find most interesting is that I always used my seat belt. It was the first thing I did whenever I got into a vehicle, until they made it a law. I resent the government telling me what I have to do to keep myself safe. Even Bill, when he was in the hospital, had the choice to go on the ventilator or not. It was HIS CHOICE to go on hospice and HIS CHOICE as to when we activated the "Do Not Resusitate" and "Do Not Intubate" protocols. Gma also chose when to stop eating, and I honored that choice by telling her nurses not to force feed her in any way.

WE, as Americans and human beings, have few enough choices still left to us in this world. So far, the government hasn't figured out a way to take away that most basic one of live or die. I pray God or gods, if you wish, they never do.

LOve you! Hugs and chocolate to you and Datapard
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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