I can only hope that my final moments in this life will be spent living instead of dying. By that I’m referring to my mental state, not my physical. Of course I’d like to have the best of both worlds, but given the choice, I want to be aware—to be cognizant of my surroundings. Even if I’m destined to be confined to a hospital bed, I want to be able to ask the nurse to please turn the light off as she leaves. I want her to know that what I said wasn’t a metaphor to be interpreted as her playing the part of Death, encroaching to forever turn off my light. As I acknowledge the dispelled notion of such a metaphor, I hope that she will respond with a chuckle. Because, after all, is there really any better way to enter darkness than immediately after making someone smile?
But what if you are dying? What if your sickness is getting the best of you? In my previous story I mentioned my Uncle Ike who had lived a very full life immersed in the medical fields at Duke and Vanderbilt universities. His last day of life was not comfortable, as he had been experiencing a considerable amount of pain. My mother was in his bedroom that night when he asked her, “What is today’s date?” She told him, then asked why he wanted to know that. He said, “Just want to know the date I’m going to die.” Here he was, the scientist in his final hours of life, and wanting to collect the facts before he took his last breath. Information that he would never retrieve, but important information to him at the time, because he was alive, not dying.
He needed the medical attention that only a hospital could provide. When the paramedics arrived, he was strapped onto a gurney to be loaded into an ambulance. He knew there wasn’t going to be enough oxygen to make it to the hospital on time. This was it—he was going to arrive unconscious. His final words to his family were: “Be sure to shut down the oxygen tanks…you don’t want to have the house blow up while you’re gone.” He was now the scientist, the man watching out for others, the man coherently thinking in the right direction, and the man who would never relinquish his unrelenting style of dry humor. He was just engaged in, and keenly aware of, his surroundings.
Again, he was alive.
I am not a scientist. My lifeblood flows with creative juices. While I see the facts of life, I have a tendency to dwell on the what-ifs of impossible wonders. My mind travels to many places obscure, and somehow, within the obscurity, I find normalcy. My Uncle Ike, however, would comically just roll his eyes and, in effect, say to my mother: “Lucy, this child of yours—he was certainly born half-baked.”
So, if I may be so lucky to have all of my faculties together, I wonder what my last thought will be before I die. Will I be so lucky to engage in something creative? Perhaps an interesting perspective will strike me to such an extent that it will later be recalled that… ”He left us with the quintessential Ros.”
Go ahead, sheath me in discomfort and confine me to a hospital bed. But at least give me a window so I can gaze at that portion of the world. Maybe I’ll see a young bird attempting to fly, and that will remind me of the Wright brothers, who will remind me that creativity and science can be beautiful partners. And the word science will remind me of Uncle Ike, and I’ll suddenly realize that I’m in the exact point in life where he learned of the date that he died. I’ll smile, because, like my uncle, I’ll be in a place of full clarity. And what better way to enter darkness than immediately after a smile.
“Nurse, I’m going to get some sleep now. Please turn off my light.”
Copyright Ros Hill 2016
One thought on “The Last Day”
Gotta love Uncle Ike!
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