The Cruelty of Life and the Kindness of Death

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The older we get, the more we get used to death walking right beside us. Perhaps it was always like that, we just didn’t dare to acknowledge it. When we are young, we demand the right to live our lives -and nothing is wrong with that and so for many years, the thought of dying is a disturbance.

By nature, death is for the older, sadly that doesn’t always work like it. Some of us seem to be smarter, and they live their life to the fullest from an early age on. It’s almost like they knew their lives would be cut short, so it seems to us, the ones who are left behind.

Death -right now I wish for you. Not for me but for a friend and neighbor, who bravely and courageously fought cancer for almost two years. She is a nurse; she knew she didn’t have a chance, yet she fought anyway.

Back then, the diagnosis was brutal and came so unexpected. Stage IV Pancreatic cancer, inoperable, it had already spread to her lungs. She is on Chemotherapy since October 2016 and her body has taken a serious beating and while she always seems to be upbeat and very optimistic, her eyes say otherwise.

Children and Grandchildren hope for the best, so does her husband, who can’t imagine a life without her. Watching from the sidelines I know she is hanging on by a thread, not because she wants too but for all the ones she loves.

Friday she went to the doctor and finally, they admitted that there is nothing they can do -perhaps there never was. We visited her on Saturday, we talked as always. My husband sat with other men in the man-cave. Women and kids were scattered throughout their house.

There was a moment when we were alone -just a group of friends. “They give me two months,” she said and we all took it in quietly. October, two months before Christmas, life has the tendency to be cruel at first sight. Hospice will come by on Monday already and they will talk about pain management, and she will make her own arrangements.

The living room will be emptied out, it will become her room for the time being. “I always hated that couch anyway,” she joked and we all laughed.

“I am so ready,” and we knew what she meant. I cannot imagine how she must feel. A part of me is relieved. At least now she knows she won’t have to suffer very much longer. While I might sound cruel when I write this, I hope she won’t have to make it for another eight weeks. I hope her heart will give up, or perhaps she will just drift away in her sleep.

“I hope she will make it to Christmas,” I hear someone say later and I bite my tongue. While I understand the wish and the love for a special Holiday, I wish us to be less selfish. Hope is a wonderful thing, but so is realism.

There comes a point when all our human inventions and our knowledge just prolongs death -not life. I wish we would be kinder to sickness and I wish we would finally allow the ones who suffer, to have a final say.

Death is a part of life and the older I get, the more I will get to know all about it.

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“Life and Death” by the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt

26 thoughts on “The Cruelty of Life and the Kindness of Death

  1. Pingback: Taking Care of a Caretaker | The happy Quitter!

  2. I breathe a heavy sigh of agreement. A very close friend is “holding on” to her daughter right now. From what I see the daughter is suffering so greatly, and doctors are recommending hospice. But they’re just not yet ready. I hope I never face this moment with my closest loved ones, but watching from the perspective of friendship, my heart is heavy, and I wonder a lot about what could be gained in acceptance. I am just at that point–wondering!! i surely don’t know. But your words touch me. I really hope your dear friend has a peaceful passing. It is so hard even when we have gained some understanding of the necessary acceptance. ox

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  3. Absolutely awesome post. We fear death so much we try to ignore it . But it continues to happen , even to those we can’t imagine living without. But it is inevitable . It is part of life.

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  4. Youi’ve explained, inadvertently, why my father held on so long. Not for himself, but for US who are left behind. We got a last Christmas. He got a trip to Canada (which he’d never seen) with his sons and grandchildren. My mother got time to adjust to the notion that he was dying. I wonder what he got?

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  5. We do walk hand in hand with death through this little life we lead. And we do touch so many more than we realise until, if we are given a slow end, the reckoning comes. To watch a person come to terms with the end of life, with death, is to watch all the nuances of human nature play out. Some have anger, some fear, some are resigned or even relaxed. For some it is a relief. I read a wonderful essay on caring for the dying recently which stressed that the only one that matters is the person who is going to die. And that for them, what matters is that those they love and are leaving can cope, emotionally, with their parting. That they are protected. It is the last act of love. Death is inevitable, it can be a beautiful thing. It is up to those around to not hesitate but to be what the person wants. And for each, just as in life, it will be unique. Be yourselves, go with her and go gently on one another as you are on her. I send you all, all the kindness, all the strength of spirit I can muster. You will be in my thoughts, Bridget – take my thoughts, tuck them away and when appropriate scatter them where they are needed. With great love, Fiona

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  6. I’m so sorry….not sorry that she is going to be released soon from her pain, but sorry she’s had two years of fighting. You’ll all miss her, but now is the time to get everything said that needs to be said. To get as many hugs as possible. To memorize her smile, her voice, her laugh. For her children to really know how much she loves them, and her husband too. There will be a fine line for all of you to walk, spending time with her but giving her enough time on her own with her family. Hugs to all of you.

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  7. I agree with you Bridget, death should be about dignity and I think when the time comes you do embrace it, in your friends case its a matter of dignity and being pain free. I hope like you its sooner rather than later…

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  8. Firstly, and it may seem callous to mention, I love Klimt. Not to everyone’s taste I know.

    More importantly, I grieve for your loss, and for the loss of your friend’s family and others who love her, and it is a loss, even though she has not yet died.
    Life can be so cruel, often so.
    I’ve always wished that we had an off switch, somewhere safe so it couldn’t be activated accidentally. I have seen so many who really did not want to carry on. Often, they do so for the sake of others.
    I told both my Mum, and my Dad, at the appropriate time, that it was OK to go, if that’s what they wanted, because it almost seems that those close to death need permission to let go. They feel they should continue to fight, even though they don’t really want to.
    We are fickle creatures, and selfish. We want people to fight for life when they don’t really want to. We cry at funerals and wakes, mainly for ourselves.

    May your friends final days be peaceful, and joyous, and may those left behind remember her with affection and a smile.

    Hugs to you Bridget.

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    • Gustav Klimt is my favorite painter and not just because he is from Austria as well. I love his love affairs with colors and shapes. There is Klimt calendar hanging on the wall, right above the desk.

      You are right. We are the ones that can’t let go, we, the living, are the ones who hang on for too long.

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