Thursday, July 13, 2017

Why I Don't Mourn My Friend's Death


Over a year ago, I wrote the following in the wake of something I wrote even earlier:
Sitting at the bedside of a good friend who seems, for reasons I don't fully understand, to be virtually comatose and close to death from cerebral hypoxia associated with an advanced stage of Alzheimer's. What an awful, cruel disease Alzheimer's is!
Three nights ago, my friend’s decline ended unceremoniously in a senior care home bed. It was the first time either I or my wife had ever watched anyone die “up close and personal.” My friend lie in bed, unresponsive to his environment, unblinking eyes wide open, gasping in a strange, rhythmically spasmodic manner for breath. And then after what seemed like ten or more seconds’  interruption in breathing, he breathed in and out a couple more times, closed his eyes briefly and opened them again, and then stopped breathing altogether. A hospice nurse arrived a half hour later to officially pronounce him deceased on July 10, 2017 at 11 pm.

I wish I could say I was struck by the momentousness of a life passing before my eyes, but I’d be lying. I felt almost nothing except sadness for my friend’s wife who, after taking tender care of her virtually comatose husband for over a year with almost superhuman diligence, lost the considerable monetary benefits she would have qualified for had he been able to hold on for just twenty-two more days.

Maybe one reason why I felt so little is because it seemed to me that my friend actually died over a year ago. Certainly, the shell of a person who lie helpless in that bed virtually unconscious for all those months requiring total care from his wife and other caregivers was not the man who watched TV with me at my house several times a week two or three short years ago and intelligently discussed politics, international events, religion, philosophy, and the copious personal adventures of his rich and varied life.

If I were to have felt anything besides sadness for his wife, maybe it should have been elation over the fact that my friend was now “free at last...free at last, thank God almighty [he is] free at last!”

Yet perhaps that possibility was tempered by various considerations such as my uncertainty of whether a fully dead or non-conscious entity can be better off than a conscious one any more than a rock is “better off” than a starving child, and of whether, if my friend’s consciousness continued in some posthumous condition or place, he actually suffered less when lying virtually comatose on this mortal plane. Suppose he died and passed on to some excruciatingly hellish afterlife or wandered alone and fearful in some strange new dimension.

Or maybe my friend’s death and death in general mean little to me anymore because life has come to mean little to me. The older I get, the more I see life as a pointless, futile exercise. My friend seemed to think of it that way too. In fact, we seemed to think a lot alike about a lot of things. Maybe that’s why we were friends.

No comments: