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Back in May, I wrote a blog post about trying to settle into my end days in which I concluded: “I was so certain I had this end of life stuff under control. It's going to be awhile.”
No kidding. Sometimes I think I will get there only when I die.
Of course, I have no idea how to make peace with impending death. It's not like I took a class in school or that there is an instruction book. Well, actually, there is a lot of such advice written by counselors of various types. In general, it is bland or obvious or dependent on religious belief and most of all, it avoids the point which is this:
“Dear god, I won't be here anymore. How can that be?” It is the most sobering thought I can imagine - the world going on without me. How dare it.
The counselors mean well, but they haven't been here. They don't know. I have decided that it is like skydiving – you can read how it's done, watch all the videos and you still don't know how to overcome the fear until you jump out of an airplane yourself.
Everyone who has been or is in shoes similar to mine has had to work this out. Me? I muddle along not doing anything much differently than I did before they told me I am nearing my use-by date.
Writing for this blog along with preparing Peter's music columns and readers' stories are the central focus of my days. It's what I do, my job, and I have no less interest in it now than when I began although the focus has narrowed somewhat to more about my predicament.
That's the good part. Otherwise, I feel my energy level decreasing almost by the week. Following three days in a row of visits from several hospice workers, I spent a lot of the next day lying down, resting. One in-person visit a day is all I can do now, I think, and that will soon require a day off in between. Even too many telephone conversations tire me.
Also now, pain – or the anticipation of it – is my daily companion. Most mornings I wake with no pain and I consider it a good day when none appears within the next couple of hours.
Most days, I feel a “presence” here and there on my body sometime in the morning. I use over-the-counter pain medication which kicks in after an hour and I'm fine until late afternoon or evening.
But if I miss that “presence” and don't take the medication until the pain is banging at me – which happens now and then - it takes me to a dark place in my mind that is no fun at all and from which I can't climb out until I'm pain-free.
Then, fortunately, my short-term memory difficulty kicks in and I escape the black thoughts. (There are advantages, sometimes, to old-people problems.)
Once every 10 days or so, I go an entire day without pain. Those days are a joy. I forget the deadline I live under, I can move about with ease and in my now-limited, little world, I feel joyful just doing the everyday stuff of life. And laughing at the squirrels.
On those days, I know I can handle my predicament. I believe then I will be fine even without an instruction book and everything will be okay even if I don't come up with some answers for this last period of life.
And you know what else? I just figured out that there's no test at the end. No matter what, it's a win.