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Thread: Death

  1. #1

    Default Death

    My grandfather passed away Friday. Well, to be precise, he was my step-grandfather, but my grandparents divorced the year I was born. Grandma married the person I've known as Grandpa nearly 25 years ago. We knew it was coming, and yet we weren't even able to be there. My parents, Mr. Aurkarm, and I were starting the cleanout on their house in Florida when we got the call. Well, to be precise, we didn't get the call so much as my dad was on the phone with Grandma asking about whether certain things were meant to stay with the house or come to Michigan when she interrupted and said, "I have to go, I think [Grandpa] just passed." And he had.

    Frankly, we were all shocked he made it this long. He was a Korean War vet. He drank and smoked and partied like a rock star until he was in his 50s. He had been on dialysis for two years. He had a heart attack six months ago that put him into hospice, from which he checked himself out. His mind was slipping in and out, and in one of his "out" periods, he (in his pajamas) got into their old dilapidated truck with bald tires they used to use to tow a camper and drove from Michigan to their home in Florida. After the heart attack, they diagnosed him with mesothelioma. About a month ago, they detected signs of brain cancer.

    "And how we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life, wouldn't you say?"

    And somehow, he made it to 82. The odd thing was, he was ready to go and had been for at least a year. He knew his health and his body were failing him. He checked himself out of hospice-fully in possession of his faculties-because he wasn't interested in the life hospice care might offer him. I visited him in the hospital after his heart attack, and he was in great spirits; laughing and joking around, telling stories from his rambunctious youth, lamenting that the pudding was terrible but happy that the coffee was decent. At Christmas (long after his doctors and the medical professionals in our family figured he'd be gone), he was talkative, played with the kids a bit, and otherwise participated in the events in a family of 40. Until the last, he was still as full of life as he could be when his faculties were about him.

    "The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time."

    We all run around like idiots with our heads cut off, trying to keep up with our jobs and our appointments and our families and our commitments. We lament the lack of time for our hobbies and to stay connected to old friends and to do all the things we'd love to try doing. And we fear death. We fear running out of time. We fear the end of whatever thing it is we call life. We fear missing out on moments with our loved ones. We fear missing out on opportunities. We fear never getting to do those things we keep telling ourselves we're going to do someday.

    "I haven't faced death. I've cheated death. I've tricked my way out of death and patted myself on the back for my ingenuity. I know nothing"

    On my bike ride to work on October 17, 2007 at about 7:35 a.m., I was smashed by a Buick Rainier whose driver had run the red light at 40 miles per hour. As I entered the intersection, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and realized that I was about to be hit by a large speeding SUV. In a period that certainly seemed much longer in my mind's eye but was probably less than a second in real time, I remember thinking that I was about to die ("I'm dead, this is how it ends" is what I recall specifically). I feel like there was something else also, "I hope it doesn't hurt" or some variation on that theme, but sadly that didn't survive the trip from impact to 2015. I know I didn't wish for more or go through a list of regrets. The last, as my memories go, was basically my mind fading to black in the moment before I was struck. I have no memory of being struck, and I was genuinely surprised when I awoke and was still alive.

    And now I find myself wondering what it's like to know your end in this life is near, wondering what it's like to have made peace with it, and having time to contemplate what all that means. What's it like to be waiting, knowing that the next time you go to sleep, that might be it? Here I am, 33 years old, and I feel like I have about as much experience with death as one can have without having seen the white light at the end of the tunnel. I've made a full recovery from an accident that, statistically speaking, I only had a 15 percent chance of even surviving, and when I had my accident, I accepted that I was about to die. Yet, I look at Grandpa, and he was ready. He was ready to go. And it wasn't a split-second thing. He had time to prepare, time to contemplate. Suicide is one thing, and I've talked about my experiences with that, as well. But, suicide is, to my mind, a unique beast. Grandpa wasn't suicidal, nor did he specifically want to die. He was just... ready.

    I know the Christians think about Heaven and Hell. Some of the Eastern religions think about reincarnation. Grandpa professed to be a Christian, and he even attended church, but he (to my knowledge) wasn't really religious. I'm not religious now, and I had already gone through my religious break a few years before my accident.

    So I guess I wonder what it's like, to be ready for the end. Death is such a feared thing, but what does it mean? Need we fear it? I would love to say I don't fear death, but if I'm honest, I'm not sure how I feel about it. Part of me's curious, part of me fears it, part of me doesn't know how to feel about it, and part of me accepts it.

    I dunno. But any perspectives anyone's willing to offer are welcome.

  2. #2


    My wife works in Hospice and there is a lot of difference (it seems) when you know it is coming.

    Everyone has an Idea and the family unity during the process can be very special.

    I lost my dad very suddenly and it was hard. I have lost several friends very suddenly, but I had one friend that new he had cancer and was fighting it with all of his might and he refused to be around anyone that was negative. I got close to him and when I would question what he was saying the Doctor told him, if it was argumentative he would tell me to stop or leave. He was making plans to move closer to his kids and I helped him with his model railroad and some other things. I come over to help him and he said he was finishing his chemo on Friday then would see the doctor on Monday. He said he felt better but this round of chemo was a lot harder then the other two times. He saw the Doctor and he told him he was done with treatment and there was nothing else to do. The doctor gave him a referral to hospice and he passed that night.

    I rambling but it just depends on how one looks at death that will effect the reaction.

    Sort of relevant but not really. I have been suicidal three times and all I can say is I just wanted the hurt and exhaustion to stop. I just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. Then on the flip side of that coin. I can tell you how "weird" it is to be felling better after a month of misery and three days in the hospital being poked and prodded, to have a Doctor come in and ask "why are you alive?"
    Only to find out that I had walked around for 7 days before I finally go good and sick with a ruptured appendix.

    So I hope you can find comfort some way and realize that this is a part of life and it will happen again at some point.


  3. #3


    Quote Originally Posted by GoldDragonAurkarm View Post
    My grandfather passed away Friday. [...]

    I dunno. But any perspectives anyone's willing to offer are welcome.
    That is certainly thought-provoking... and ya know, the usual sentiments of condolences and such... those things often very sincere, yet done for the sake of those in recent loss... I think we unwittingly do for ourselves...

    We it seems (in the USA especially)... do have a strange-like out-of-body experience with death... what I mean to say is... we tend to pretend it isn't real, it won''t happen to us in any time near enough to fuss about just yet...

    All-the-while, we're doomed from the start... even before our conception... kind-of-like cosmic-messengers ...maan!

    We survive what seems improbable odds... that's before we encounter all the near-misses, and for the few such as you... didn't quite miss! -yet, fortunately didn't take either... Holy Schnikies! (RIP -Chris Farely)

    Then there's the whole bit about wanting to die... wishing we were dead, or simply not wanting to live... which is odd really... we profess this end by death (something most likely to happen eventually, without infinite intervention)... when we don't know fuck about living...

    It's like we get this ticket to life... yet we don't know what to do with it... we don't appreciate any practical or intrinsic value in it, so we think... we'll throw it away like a piece of junk-mail... but, the moment someone tries to take it from us (we're not using it), or it's about to expire, or we've lost it... fear and panic sets in...

    I used to think that we should mourn births, and celebrate deaths...

    I believe that my dog knows the answers... yet, she's not uttered a word of it...

    For now, may we find the answers we need only, and in a timely fashion...

  4. #4


    Let me offer a few thoughts. No particular order to this, just as it comes to me.

    My own experience
    My grandfather died 2 years ago now. I was on the phone with my Mom when she was over at my grandparents and I was talking to my grandpa through the phone just moments before his death. I felt like I was there with him even though I was 3,000 miles away. I wasn't sad about his death though. He had gout and could barely move by the end. He had live an incredible life: fought in World War II (and lived his way through Europe on winnings from playing cards apparently), traveled the world, and built up an incredible home and family. He was like an umbrella that protected all his children and relatives. His funeral was a celebration of that life and I aspire to be half the man he was.

    To me, death isn't sad when the person has lived well and left at a time when he or she was ready (and when life had become so hard that most of its pleasures were lost). Instead it's a celebration of a life well-lived. Where death is sad is when it hits prematurely: children or young people, those engaged in great works or who have yet to undertake the works of their lives. Because then it's lost potential and sadness at what could have been.

    On Memory
    One of my favorite books from my time in school was Beowulf. It opens with a story not about the current king or the hero Beowulf, but instead about a king long past named Schild Scheffing (which I have almost surely misspelled). He is remembered because he was a good king, and his legacy is what everyone else for the rest of the story tries to match. That, I think, is how people live on after death, rather than in the more religious sense. It is the memories we leave for the people here on earth that are felt and mattered. As long as a person is remembered, they're never fully gone.

    On how Common Death is
    One thing I think about sometimes in today's world is how distant death usually seems. In the old days (and I mean like 100+ years ago), people died in childbirth regularly, young people would get sick and die, people died in accidents, and wars were more common. I think almost all young people knew someone close to them who had died and it was something one learned to cope with growing up. Today, death has become further away. The death of a beloved pet is perhaps the only one most young people experience. Grandparents often do not die before a person enters their 20s or 30s and deaths of the young or the sick are much less common due to medical advances. This is by far a good thing, but I think it does make it harder to cope with death when it does strike us. When you've already lived for many years and are struck with the death of someone close as a wholly new experience, it hits harder and the despondence associated with it can last longer. You don't need to be in a rush to get over it, but rather can take as much time as you need to think through it and mourn. Time is what heals all wounds and the amount of time necessary for a proper salve can vary.

    On our own mortality
    This is a tough topic. I think being ready to die is about feeling that you acted as best you were able during life. If you have great regrets: things you didn't do, people you wronged, friends you've lost, then fear of death is much greater and the loss more meaningful. But that doesn't mean one needs to accomplish everything right now. The world is big and there are many things to do. I think it's just about making decisions both for yourself and others, as best you can. I don't regret my weekends spent playing video games diapers because they brought me joy and made life feel wonderful. Nor do I regret weekends with my grandparents, dinners with my family, or evenings spent out with friends because those brought me a different sort of pleasure and fostered relationships about which I care deeply. I don't think my life has been perfect or that I've made no mistakes, but I feel now that I've done the best I can, including my ability to determine what the best I can do is. I feel like I'm boasting a bit here and that's not intended. Rather I want to emphasize that death is an opportunity to contemplate what you've done and plan to do and think about whether you'd like to make any changes. Sometimes one's priorities can change and different things can seem more or less important in the grand scheme of life.

    My deepest condolences though. It is sad to lose someone close to you.

  5. #5


    Hey, Golddragon,

    There's so much I want to say right now, but unfortunately, I have to rush out the door for a hearing. I would like to return to this thread and post something more meaningful and coherent, hopefully in the next few days.

    First of all, let me offer my condolences to you and your family. The loss of a loved one is hard on anyone, regardless of the circumstances.

    I really liked the quotes in your post. You and I are both Trek fans so of course I recognized them immediately from the Wrath of Khan.. From the sounds of it your father lived his life on his own terms and had no regrets. Unfortunately, sickness happens and we do the best we can. So please also remember the following quote, also from the same movie;“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

    I would also encourage you to celebrate his life and memory and the lives of those around you. Each day we are here is a gift. We are all part of the collective memory of those who came before us. Live long and prosper, my friend.

  6. #6


    Well said, GDA. I can certainly relate to a lot of that. I doubt I could tolerate any sort of nursing facility, nor would I hang on just for the sake of hanging on. I think your grandfather would suggest a party in his memory...

    Every year, on his birthday, my wife pours a Schlitz on her late father's grave.

  7. #7


    To all living creatures there is only one thing a certainty and is thus written in stone, death will come to all and will take us as it finds us.

    Sorry for your loss. Beyond your pain you might see that the old timer was a fun guy to be around and full of life to the bitter end, maybe its this fact that makes your loss so much more unbearable.

    Amended as needed - for myself.

    "I haven't faced death. I've cheated death. I've tricked my way out of death and patted myself on the back for my ingenuity. I know nothing am conceited"

  8. #8


    can't help any, beyond that of death being incomprehensible to us.
    and that's even truer if we're being secular about it, with 'nothingness' being a concept and therefore being a something, not a nothing.

    my only hope is that death is not just a state of being as a corpse, where you experience everything that happens to you, as a corpse, as if you were alive.

  9. #9


    I guess I look at death from several different perspectives. I lost a lot of people in my early twenties to suicide and drug use. They were all my age and very close to me. It was sad to see so many people who couldn't find the strength or will to carry on. They never had the chance to grow up, have children, a career, or a full life where they could look back on what they had hoped to accomplish. I still think of all the lost potential, talent, creativity just shot down in their prime. It made me realize just how precious life really is and to never take a loved one for granted, because they could just as easily be gone tomorrow. For all the good and bad things in how your grandfather lived his life, GoldDragonAurkarm, at least he lived a long one, as a veteran, a loved family member, and I'm pretty sure he has left you with many interesting stories to tell future generations.

    It's always been in the relationships I formed where I've felt the most loss; a partner and a good friend were lost to suicide, my best friend killed a car accident after relapsing on drugs. When my father died approximately ten years ago I was much less affected. I simply felt nothing. He was in the hospital with cancer and the doctors were telling my mother that it was time to bring in family members to say their final goodbyes. I just couldn't do it. How horrible does that sound? My father hated me from the time I was born. I was an unplanned baby and the church condemned abortions. My father drank heavily in those days and my mother told him that if he touched another drop of alcohol while I was living in the house, she would leave him. So we were off to a bad start and he resented before me I was even born. Growing up, I think he realized I was gay long before I did. Not only did I endure bullying in school on a daily basis, but coming home wasn't much better. I was always made to feel inferior, stupid and my father spent more time talking to my friends than he did to me. And then there was the diaper disciple at age six which pretty much fucked up my ability to form relationships. I was not welcome in my parents home for the last ten years of his life after my brother confirmed that I was gay and I seeing someone at that time. He forbade my mother from contacting me and checked their phone bills regularly to ensure there were no calls to or from my phone number.

    I remember a friend asking me many years ago how I would feel if my father died and I hadn't done anything to try and make things better. I was the victim here. If I reached my hand out to him it would only have been cut off. I responded to her that if my father died, I would mourn the relationship that I never had with him from the day I was born and not the fact that he was gone. I did go to the funeral but I felt absolutely nothing, no grief, no sense of loss, just the fact that someone who despised me all my life was gone. I felt sorrow for my mother's grief but nothing more than that..It wasn't until he died that I was finally able to reconcile with some family members. In that respect, GoldDragonAurkarm, be glad that at least there are some good memories and that you're able to feel something, even if it is painful right now. The alternative of feeling nothing is so much worse.

    As I get older, I feel that the shadow of death has been an ongoing part of defining my life. From my own suicide attempt at the age of sixteen, losing the closest people around me, surviving an assault where I was nearly killed, working with the homeless population and having lost some of our clients to the streets in freezing winters, surviving the AIDS crisis in the early eighties when it was discovered and referred to as 'the gay cancer,' we are all part of this continuous, flowing river of life, yet we can never say with any certainty how long any of our own individual journeys will be. For that reason, I believe that each day we are here is a gift and that we should celebrate it, as well as celebrating the memories of those whose journeys have ended.

    As a humanist, and as an atheist, I do not believe in the concepts of heaven, hell, or any sort of afterlife. People of religious faith have stated that life is a hollow existence without a belief in god or heaven. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe that every person we come across in life is someone we can learn from and feel privileged to know, since we are all together on this one planet in this one particular moment in time. I believe that our common humanity is the one thing we all can share and work toward upholding. And in the end, when we pass away, we can do so knowing that we led a life that was full of love, full of caring for others like us, full of meaning that we created for ourselves. My version of heaven is knowing that those we leave behind will remember us fondly and warmly and that we have contributed to making a positive difference in this world.

    Hope you're doing well, GoldDragon.
    Last edited by Starrunner; 21-Mar-2015 at 20:45.

  10. #10


    Thank you for your kind thoughts and condolences. I genuinely appreciate them. And I think you all had valuable things to say on this topic.

    The funeral was yesterday. It was a typical Lutheran funeral, so not a real cheerful affair, at least for the service. I expected that, though, and the family expected that. Grandma opted to wait on the cremation so that family from out of state could have a chance to say goodbye. All in all, it was a nice affair. The American Legion gave him a 21-gun salute, everyone had a chance to cry and say goodbye and look at the old pictures and have their remembrances. All told, a couple hundred people turned out for the service.

    After the service, we had a luncheon. One of Grandpa's favorite things in the world was a coney from Lafayette Coney Island. One of his old friends drove over an hour to Detroit to Lafayette Coney Island the morning of the funeral, picked up 100 coneys, and then drove two more to bring them for the luncheon. (For those unfamiliar, the coney is a staple in Detroit. Two brothers founded American Coney Island, they had a fight, then one brother founded a competing restaurant next door. To this day, the two restaurants are next door to each other and each has their loyal followers.)

    It felt like having a toast. The last time Grandpa had been to Lafayette (a couple years ago now), it was Mr. Aurkarm and I that took him. And it felt right. There we all were, having coneys and talking and having a proper celebration of life. The coney is an interesting thing, something that is much more than the sum of its parts. They've been enjoyed by high brow, low brow, and uni-brow. They've been enjoyed by drunks at 3:00 a.m. and execs at lunch. They're terribly unhealthy, they're not much to look at, and they're not fancy, but they are delicious, and eating one feels like just cutting loose and enjoying life.

    I've always said, what's the point of life if you're not going to live it? After my accident, I came to realize that life's too short to sit around wondering what could have been, and I've tried to make the most of it. A friend of mine from my undergrad days always used to say that every day he woke up, he beat his previous record for number of consecutive days he's been alive. Life is a valuable and finite resource, and we shouldn't squander it.

    But, I think that misses something minute, but valuable. That still comes from a standpoint of fear-the sort of fear I remarked on earlier-of missing opportunities, not getting to do the things we want to do, running out of time. I think what it misses is that the best way to prepare for death... is to live. Not just trying to make the most of our limited time here, but doing so without fearing the end of that time. Fear detracts from life, gets in the way.

    And the world doesn't owe us anything. Worrying about what we'll miss presumes the world owes us a certain set of experiences, and it doesn't. In retrospect, I think part of why I was able to accept it that day, aside from the inevitability of it and the infinitesimally small bit of time I had to contemplate it, was because I was doing something I enjoyed. And being that close, I felt like a big question-how?-was being answered. Turns out (happilly) that it was a wrong answer, but living what to that point had been a full life, doing something I enjoyed were, I think, far more preparatory than I could have understood then.

    So again, thank you all for your thoughts. They were incredibly valuable, and I hope you see them reflected in my thoughts here.

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