Friday, December 30, 2005

When I Lay Dying

When I lay dying, not much went through my head. Most people have a predilection for what they will envision when the moment occurs: lights at the end of a tunnel, a roller coaster reaching the top of a tense climb and then easily gliding down the other side, Uncle Joe smiling and holding an outstretched hand, regrets about not taking that long cruise instead of the weekend up North. But it did not happen to me. Nothing like this entered my mind.

Firstly, it took longer than expected. More of an elongated blur of several unpleasant moments than a tidy scene from a cop movie, where the bullet-holed partner gets some minutes of reflection.
Secondly, there was order to it. Food was regularly provided at the same times daily (but not always eaten). Friends and family came by and spoke softly (or not at all) during scheduled hours. Doctors magically appeared (but only between 9-5) and tinkered with cold steel devices, frowned over charts, then suddenly stepped out of the room. Nurses indifferently checked vitals every 2 hours, 24 hours a day. A TV was set up, and I could watch whatever I wanted. Nothing was asked of me, and nothing was expected. It was easy.

When I went through treatment, I know some things were going through my head. They're becoming difficult to recall. I've chosen to forget this time in purgatory for some reason, although I may have envisioned (flickering) lights and a very long tunnel.

Since I’ve rejoined the living, a lot goes through my head. Most people who have reached the zenith of trade and status now seem lacking in any meaningful leadership. Everything around me seems more frail and mortal. I find myself smiling at children a lot, also old people - especially old couples. I try to visit friends more, or at least attend their children’s birthday parties when asked. Work is accomplished, but hardly at the maddening pace it used to get done. I listen to a lot more music now, as much since my teen years. I recognize little things all the time: pleats in pants, swimming lanes that are divided for the slow, medium, and fast people, coffee shops that have posts to leash your doggie to and the like. I feel the need to honour my wife and family more then ever, but find myself slipping back to old habits.

Many times, I think of my brothers and sisters who have not had my fortune. I wonder if there are even more secrets they know that have yet to be revealed to me. And I wonder if there is a place I can store those secrets until I am truly ready for them.

Elliot very much lives in Toronto, Canada.

The above was written by Elliot, my first guest poster.



Ryan Oakley said...

Very nice, Elliot. Moving in a strange sort of way. (If dying is as easy as it sounds maybe I'll try it one day.) I just wish everyone could get the sort of insights you've had without all of the trouble. It'd be a better world.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words, Ryan - It was a strange experience. Extremely hard to articulate, let alone endure.


melly said...

Ryan, "Moving in a strange sort of way" is a good way to put it.
Yeah, I even wish for the same thing.

"And I wonder if there is a place I can store those secrets until I am truly ready for them." - Ell, that is some sentence.

ME Strauss said...

It was so easy to read your words, like listening to a friend share a story of something I missed because I couldn't be there. The images that you paint are comforting that you have not lost your humanity, but rather gained so much more of it. I hear echoes of my older brother who faced death at 21 and made friends with life in what seems to me a similar way. A way I'm only learning how to do now when my son is turning 21.

I am most touched by your writing. Thank you for this piece. Thank you, Melly for choosing this one to share on New Year's Eve.

Melly said...

Liz, thank you :)
Yes, indeed, it's fitting for the New Year's.
Happy New Year, dear.

Trée said...

Wonderful and beautiful and insightful and inspiring all at the same time. The writing is so smooth. The word choices so clear and right. Melly, tell Elliot this was a very, very nice piece of writing and sharing. Happy New Year to you both. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you Liz and Tree,

I am glad you've gotten something out of the piece. Ironically, I feel I have not expressed the experience as definitively as hoped...but perhaps I should give myself a break.


Jennifer said...

Wow, that's definitley a view I haven't read before. Thanks for sharing!

Happy New Years Melly!

melly said...

Thanks Trée, thanks Jennifer.
Happy New Year !

Deborah said...


Thank you for sharing this. I often wondered what my father-in-law had gone through after his stroke, and you gave me a glimpse. I'm glad you survived whatever it was that put you in that limbo.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Deborah. Happy New Year!


rdl said...

Very nice Elliot; I enjoyed that alot. Is there more?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, rdl.

Yes, there is more, much more. But I haven't written it yet. I glossed over the treatment part for the sake of being concise. Reality is, pages could be eventually written on the experience...but it will have to wait for a later date. I still want to enjoy having hair again before writing what it was like to be stripped of it (and everything else).


Patry Francis said...

I loved reading this--especially about the little things you noticed when you were well again, the pleats in pants, etc. and the rhythm of things in the hospital. Your observations are very astutes. I very much appreciate having the opportunity to read them.

(Thanks, Melly)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the kind comments, patry francis. Ironic though - I am more encouraged that it was so easily readable vs. the content itself.


Ryan Oakley said...

Content is what makes things readable Elliot. Anyone who tells you different is probably some kind of writer and not to be trusted.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting such a nice blog out here for all of us to read.

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