Date: Fri, 24th January 2014 01:10:35 +0200
To: anyone@interested.net
From: oz
Subject: death

 

i just finished reading Sherwin B. Nuland's How we die. one of the many contemporary paradoxes is that people are fascinated with death, yet more terrified by it than ever. and the media knows that. a few days ago a small plane crashed in romania. two died, five survived. great stuff for news agencies, they have been chewing on it for the past week and it's far from over. people can't stop talking about it, with the specific neurotic craze that these events create. yet they understand so little.

2007, december 30th. my smaller son's birthday. we just came back from the hospital, where my grandfather tried to beat the odds in the ICU. he was in a bad shape, all trembling, giving directions about how his funeral should be, something old people do, i guess. he was 84 and survived 3 heart attacks before, so i was hoping we'd get over this one too. he had been in there for the previous two weeks, nothing unusual. a few days before i gave him a shave, looked better, that night however his beard grew back, looked older and skinnier than ever, his belly somewhat swollen, bad sign, i remembered telling myself, but i dared not think it further. that day i left my grandmother do the most talking, somehow i felt they had things to tell eachother, but it just happened, wasn't planned. i gave him a kiss on his forehead when we left, promised him i'd be back the following day, took my grandmother home, went home myself, worried, but not dreadful. cold winter evening it was, we had some snow, it wasn't alltogether that bad, untill 8:54, when my phone rang, i looked at the number and i instantly knew. i answered it crying already, heard the polite voice telling me what i already knew. then it became, for a few minutes, surreal. no time to waste though, i had to rush to the hospital, pick up his things. he was already taken out from the ICU, his bed on the hall, he was covered, i remember waiting there, sobbing, and being afraid to lift the sheet. before i went home i stopped by my grandmother, tried to be strong, couldn't, then i called my best friend, i needed a drink, he came, while he was buying some coffee i took a piss in the park, never did that, but i couldn't care less. my wife told meg my eldest son, 8 at the time, cried too, she asked him why, he said "to you he was nobody, but to me he was my great grandad". the following day was december 31st, short working day everywhere, it was a constant rush, i got to see him in the morgue, he looked peaceful, i remember saying to myself "he was always cold, always liked to be warm, i bet he's feeling cold now, too".

2009, september 25th. went to visit my grandmother, we were planning some renovations to the house, i had a meeting with some people to work out the details. after they saw the house we went to the next street, maybe 300 feet away so they can show me a similar work they did to another house. chatted, negotiated a bit, shook hands, they went right, i went left. as i was approaching the house i noticed the gate to the yard was slightly open, thought it was a bit strange, but not that unusual. as i approached i saw my grandmother collapsed on the inside, one foot under the other, her back to the wall, shopping bag on the ground, her head leaning forward as if it had a will of its own, moaning, harsh sounds coming from her throat, the tongue a bit out of her mouth, unusually whiteish. i jumped at her, started shouting, shaking her. i know CPR, but then i forgot everything instantly. my neighbour came out, brought some water, i tried rubbing her face and arms with it, shouted at the neighbour to call an ambulance, the stupid asshole couldn't explain to the operator the situation, i had to leave my grandmother there and give the details myself. rushed back to her amidst constant shouting, swearing, begging. i don't believe in immortality, but if there is a sound a soul makes when leaving a body, then that was it. paramedics came quickly, laid her on the ground, took her prothesis out, ripped her shirt off, it was a hot autumn, she was naked under that, started heart massage, mouth-to-mouth, electroshocks, massage, mouth-to-mouth, electroshocks, massage, mouth-to-mouth, electroshocks, one paramedic asked for another ambulance, with a doctor, that came pretty late, maybe fifteen minutes, the doctor was sympathetic, but somewhat distant, i guess routine has that effect. told them to carry on, asked me if i want some medicine to calm me down, i said no. they kept trying for about an hour, then the doctor came to me, said she is very sorry, but there is nothing else they can do. they put her in a blanket, brought her in the house, put her on the floor, she was still all ravished, but the body was changed, she seemed a lot smaller and thinner than she was just two hours before. the paramedics left, i started crying, stopped the clock on the wall, it was 4:25 pm, left it like that for about a year and a half. i rushed to get the proper funerary services, i remember doing 80 mph in a 30 zone, there was no reason to go that fast, she would stay dead, and cold, and old, but the gas pedal was there, bending together with my sorrow. took care of all the formalities, the embalmers did a pretty good job, she looked again strict and tough as always. they put the coffin on the table, in the living room. then the guy came, from the funerary house, to take her to the graveyard, where they have a cold facility, he came in the house, took his hat off and couldn't believe his eyes when he saw only me and my ten year old son standing there. i understood his confusion and told him, that everybody who knew her is already dead, or too old, or doesn't care. we struggled with the heavy coffin, the doors are very narrow, it's an old house, i was afraid she'd fall out. the last thought i had was that before she collapsed she must've seen my car parked in front of the yard, and must've known i was close, and that she was always tough, she made it to the house to die where she was born and that i burried both my grandparents all alone, but i didn't mind.

in 2011 i started renovating the house, made it all new, built extra rooms, we moved in, a new generation. i wish my grandparents were still alive and see how well i did, and feel proud about me, but they had to make room for us, and the only way they could do that was to die. and i look at my children and i understand now why my grandfather was crying some twenty five years ago, when he had his first heart attack, and was begging the doctor to heal him only as much as it's needed to take care of me till i grow up. and i look at the hallway, it's all new and polished, but just as narrow, but i know now that with a bit of effort, you can take a coffin out through there and probably three children can handle it better than one.

and every night i don't go to bed untill i tidy the house and make order and leave everyhing arranged, just as my grandparents did, because they said it's not proper to let paramedics in, in the middle of the night, if the house is not clean.

and i know they were right.

 

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