Last night at a dinner party a friend asked, “Are you afraid of dying?” We had had plenty of wine, and were settling in to wax morbid and deep. Reflecting on the deaths I’ve experienced, I had to admit that I was. I am. Afraid of dying. Like editorial deadlines, death seems to come before I am even remotely ready. It sneaks up and steals someone I love, leaving me behind with an empty shell. Brokers like to remind us that “past performance does not predict future outcomes,” but I have very little else to go by. So sure, I’m afraid.
I like to imagine dying is like the experience Jill Bolte Tayler described in My Stroke of Insight, “I felt enormous and expansive like a genie just liberated from her bottle and my spirit soared free like a great whale gliding through a sea of silent euphoria.” This does not help when the death you fear is not your own. My dad may glide through a sea of silent euphoria, but I’m left with empty “what if’s” and a past that nobody else has shared.
So now that pneumonia is added to his Alzheimer’s soup I’m begging for treatment. You can stuff that “palliative care” back in your bag. Give me the miracle of IV antibiotics and round-the-clock care. Give him back to me dementia and all. And I will be a better daughter – more attentive, more patient, more present, more anything and everything you he or anybody else could want! Honest.