Sunday, March 05, 2006

Barter with the Reaper - part 1

illustration, aletta mes

I've taken to deal with the reaper directly, forget the middleman. No intercession of the Saints, or even the creator, they are busy with far more pressing matters. My problem is simple and I ought to be able to deal with it. It came with utter simplicity from my trusted doctor's mouth "You have Shy-Drager, the specialist concluded in his report". My reply with equally simple, "It's fatal", he replied with great solemnity "Always."

I sat in silence with him for some considerable time. Neither of us fidgeted, we barely breathed. I was surprisingly calm but noted that my doctor was not. He was flushed and looked a little shaky. It was most certainly not the first time that he had to break such news. Probably exactly why he had chosen psychiatry and not one of the more physical specialities, it was the least bloody and least likely to deal in long palliative support. At least that's what I thought, since I saw him shaking. I felt I had to break the silence.

"What can I do?"
To which he answered, "live carefully."

That was the day I first met the reaper, my reaper, head on. The reaper is now my constant companion, I cannot be made unaware of him/her. Waiting for me to slip up, to have a careless day, the day caution is not maintained. That day, now some years ago, I did not know how to acknowledge the reaper, or whether or not I should. While walking home that day I decided to be very aware of the reaper, to be cautious, and re-arrange as I must so living carefully would not come to mean, living without any excitement or quality. The reaper does not have all the power, as Sheherezade also had power over her execution I have power over the end of my days.

I am taking my sweet time, I have armed myself with all the knowledge I could. My body and spirit are nourished with mindful breathing and nourishing foods. I have learned to say no and mean it to all those people and activities that would unwittingly push me to the edge. Perhaps most important, I waste no time to the dying of the light, I simply burn more candles. My days are filled with activity, my days continue to be productive, if different than had I remained in good health.

The great irony of all this has been that a couple of years ago, the same doctor who told me to "live carefully" died, he did not expect to. He'd experienced bouts of sudden low blood pressure, his last email to me concerned getting a blood stain out of his carpet (no stain will ever defeat me). He had hit his head when collapsing during one of these episodes. A couple of weeks later he died, athletically in great shape for his sixty or so years. I miss him, he was a great doctor. Part of his legacy to me, is that I am still alive, because I am mindful of what I have to do and what not, the other is that I am productive, because to be otherwise would be the death of me, I think literally.

"Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we should make up our minds to walk boldly through them. " -- Abraham Maslow

"Life, we learn too late, is in the living, the tissue of every day and hour." -- Stephen Butler Leacock (1869-1944), Canadian economist, humorous writer, "Literary Lapses"


At 4:38 AM, Blogger Heather Blakey said...

This is a thought provoking post Aletta. Reminds me of a surgeon who operated on Darryl who died on a beach in Bali when he went headfirst into the sand from his surf board. Inexplicable really. We have lived with the reaper for five years now and some days we feel we are staving him off - others days he appears to taunt.


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