About Me

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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Time, Age, and Documents

Copyright © 2014 by Ralph F. Couey
My mind is on a journey, but not one on a road that is straight in this dimension.  Sometimes I see my thoughts in the way of a housefly frantically bouncing from one window screen to another, trying desperately to free itself.  My attention span is thus ephemeral.  There just seems so much to ponder.

Last week, I overheard a conversation between two ladies in an elevator.  It seemed that one of them had suffered the death of her father the previous year and she talked at length about how difficult things were at the end.  It seems that he had never expressed a preference for either burial or cremation, and this seemed a terribly important, and difficult, thing for them to resolve.

It was a moment like so many others riding in that nondescript vertically-moving cube when the lives of complete strangers intersect for a few moments of time.  Usually, what is said there, and heard there, flits from my conscious thoughts.  But this conversation left me with some thinking to do.

I must confess that I look at death differently from most.  Buried somewhere in this blog, like a dusty box in the attic, is a posting about an incident that happened in the spring of 2003.  After decades of suffering mindless abuse, my heart finally put its "foot" down, and put me on notice.  Two arteries were almost completely clogged and I ended up in the Cath lab at Boone Hospital in Columbia, Missouri.  During the procedure, my heart quit and I..."went away" for awhile.  The resulting experience, complete with the de riguer tunnel and white light, left me with a certainty that death...what we call it, anyway...was in fact life, just on a different level.  I'll spare you the details, except to say that I felt a lot of different emotions, but fear was not one of them.

I don't fear death.  Lest you think me crazy, let me hasten to add that I still fear the process of dying (big, big pain baby here), the actual transition has lost its mystery.  I know now what to expect.  I also know, based on that experience, that I'm not yet done here.  I will know when that particular bus arrives.

See?  Here I go, wandering again.

Anyway, as a result of the elevator thing, I decided to produce a document that would state to my children (adults, really) and my wife what my decisions I had made.

This letter told them about what to do if I became brain dead (the real brain dead, not the everyday condition of being a husband), that I desire to be cremated and where I wanted my ashes scattered.  I also told them about what to do with me when I became too old and infirm to care for myself.

And I told them that I loved them.

We don't have a formal will, and yes I know we need to get one drawn up.  But what this document does is settle any concerns that may come up in a very stressful situation.

I have encouraged my wife to draft one as well, and when that is done, we will get several copies notarized, one for each of the kids, and one for us.

Some of my friends think this is a morbid thing to do; one called it "barbaric."  Again, it all depends on one's view of death.  But I feel better that this is done.  One more item on the checklist.

I really have no expectations as to how long I will remain on this planet.  I ride a motorcycle, commute in one of the most dangerous cities for traffic in the U.S., and I have five pieces of metal bracing various arteries in my heart, so the odds are somewhat similar to a long-dormant volcano which has begun to rumble and smoke.  It's not about if, but when. 

Losing my fear of The End was a liberating moment.  I can now focus on the important things.  Like enjoying my grandchildren.

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