“I want to die quietly in my sleep, like my grandfather – not screaming and in terror, like his passengers.”
– Emo Phillips
“I am not afraid of death – I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
– Woody Allen
The health care debate, when you get right down to it, is about something much deeper than even an MRI scan. It is about the fate of a long-neglected and severely oppressed segment of American society. This group – I can’t say “minority,” really – has been so thoroughly oppressed that many of those who do in fact belong to it strive with every fiber of their being to deny their membership, not only to others but to themselves as well.
I am, of course, speaking of “Mortal-Americans.”
Upon reading that phrase, you may have experienced a brief moment of self-recognition – followed by the thought, “Why, no, he can’t possibly be talking about ME.”
You see how pervasive the internalized oppression has become. We conceal the knowledge of mortality behind face lifts, bury it under hairpieces, try to exorcise it with exercise or bind it with girdles… or gag it with respirators.
Consider: if a friend or acquaintance came up to you and said, “I’m going to die,” wouldn’t the first words out of your mouth be something along the lines of “Oh, now, don’t be silly! You’re going to be fine! Why, I’ve never seen you look better!” Or you might say something like “Yeah, sure, me too, but hey, don’t dwell on it, forget about it, here, have a beer!”
But what if, instead, your reaction was simply “Yes, of course. In the meantime – is there anything I can do for you?”
You will be reading these words, most likely, about a week before the first anniversary of my father’s death. Once his lung cancer was conclusively diagnosed, it seemed that insurance companies passed him around like a hot potato (he was on Medicare Advantage) – until it became clear that chemotherapy was only worsening his condition, and he was placed on in-home hospice care. Then everything changed.
The next few months were, in many ways, wonderful. Hospice workers stopped by regularly to check my father’s condition. Pharmaceuticals showed up at our doorstep like clockwork. Friends and neighbors offered assistance and support. His final descent, when it came, was swift, and when he died, he was comfortable, pain-free, and I believe at peace.
So here’s the truth of it: we are, all of us, terminal – but not expendable. Shouldn’t we treat each other accordingly?
“The sole means now for saving the beings of Earth would be to implant into their presences a new organ… that every one of these unfortunates during the process of existence should constantly sense and be cognizant of the inevitability of his own death as well as the death of everyone upon whom his eyes or attention rests. Only such a sensation … can destroy the egoism that has swallowed up the whole of their essence, and that tendency to hate others which flows from it…”
– Gurdjieff, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson