Friday, May 01, 2009

Death Becomes Me

I call them “911 moments”: those times when I feel certain I’ll stop breathing if Martha doesn’t call the paramedics with their ventilator machine. Luckily, those moments are very rare, except that I’ve had two of them in the past two weeks—the most recent being night before last. Thanks to Martha’s quick reactions, my breathing stabilized with increased oxygen, a drug I inhale with a machine called a nebulizer, and a large dose of Advil—the strongest painkiller I can take.

Technically, my heart should have stopped—and it probably would have if I were 72 or 82 or 92. But I’m just a youngster going on 62 and, so far, my heart has been strong enough to handle the stress put on it. It’s definitely taking a beating, though, and I don’t know how many more “911 moments” it can take. No one does.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, I am in the end stages of emphysema—an incurable, irreversible lung disease caused by smoking and with only one outcome: death. Or, as Stella in Dublin put it so lyrically, “As my sail nears the wind . . .”

The wind is picking up because I can feel it in my chest, my dying lungs pushing painfully against my ribs as they take in oxygen but are unable to rid themselves of carbon dioxide, sometimes three exhalations for every one inhalation, and all of it so physically exhausting that I could sleep for a day, a month, a forever . . .

. . . And that’s what scares me, the forever. I am neither a philosopher nor a theologian, but that’s okay: there are no human answers to the after-death after-life. The preachers know plenty about hellfire and damnation, like the sadistic priests and brainwashed nuns who began brainwashing me when I was a baby in kindergarten. All of those “sins,” those lurid images, those horrible mind-pictures in Dante’s Inferno—try as I might I cannot put all of that behind me because it might all be true . . .

But until my time comes, I’ll continue to carry on with my life like any other abnormal human being; not to do so would be a waste of the time I have left. I’ll continue to button my oxygen cord inside my shirt, brush my tooth, eat my balanced diet of Count Chocula, and read just as many books as I can. I’ll continue to blog and hobnob on LibraryThing because I still care about people, especially those who hurt . . .

And when it’s over, I just want . . . to go home.

The words to "Going Home" if you haven't time for the video or you want to follow along with Chloe:

Going home, going home
I'm just going home
Quiet light, some still day
I'm just going home

It's not far, just close by
Through an open door
Work all done, care laid by
Going to fear no more

Mother's there expecting me
Father's waiting, too
Lots of folk gathered there
All the friends I knew

All the friends I knew

I'm going home

Nothing's lost, all's gain
No more fret nor pain
No more stumbling on the way
No more longing for the day
Going to roam no more

Morning star lights the way
Restless dream all done
Shadows gone, break of day
Real life just begun

There's no break, there's no end
Just a living on
Wide awake with a smile
Going on and on

Going home, going home
I'm just going home
It's not far, just close by
Through an open door

I am going home


Mel said...

Charlie, Charlie, it hurts me on a purely selfish level to think of you "going home." I adore you and hope you're around to be my friend for a good long time.

Kim Ayres said...

Well I'm an athiest, so hell and damnation doesn't worry me. However, if it turns out I'm wrong, and there is a God, kick Him really hard in the balls for me.

Meanwhile, you have to hang on for however long it takes us to figure out how to get me over to Arizona to take you "author's photo" for your book.

Wandering Coyote said...

Ah, Charlie, I had no idea - no idea...I am very upset to hear about this this morning...I too hope you are around a long time. I'm just getting to know you!

Wandering Coyote said...

BTW, how do I find you on Library Thing? I am there under "allykat."

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Oh Charlie, I am so sorry, I had no idea. You are one of the liveliest bloggers I know; I love to read your unique take on things and I wish you continued health for a very long time. Be well, my friend, as well as can.

Mary Witzl said...

Charlie, I could kick your butt for making me cry in front of my Turkish delights.

On one hand, I can imagine how tired you are of the whole business of surviving, given your breathing problems. And I know you must also get sick of people's 'you never know, you might just live a lot longer' comments, but what the heck, here's another one anyway, about our neighbor in California, Mr MacDougall, a long-time smoker, former miner, and general nasty piece of work. He had emphysema for, oh, 40 years; you could hear him wheezing next door, over my father's snoring. He was on all sorts of medications and contraptions, but he still got a kick out of yelling at us kids, needling my mother for her liberal ways, and spying on our 'Communist' neighbors (they voted for McCarthy). Mrs. Mac didn't drive, and my other saved Mr Mac's life by rushing him to the hospital a time or two.

To make a long story short, he outlived my mother, Mrs. Mac, and just about everybody else.

So you never know. Still, you're a whole lot nicer than Mr. Mac. Maybe you'll only be with us another 20 years. And if you are, you'd better keep writing.

Stinkypaw said...

Your timing sucks ol' man!! Seriously! Just yesterday I've learned a friend from high-school suddenly died and now this... urgh.

BTW, I've locked the door for now, so no going home just yet! ;-)