Sunday, April 21, 2013

"Sprinting toward the end": Some people produce record output in the last year of life

When my mother passed away in mid December 2010, she experienced a last instance of everything.  There was a last meal (ground beef, a Thursday night before), a last night in her own bed (that night), a last time she could speak to me (Friday evening in the hospice), a last glass of water.  It is a mathematical certainty that this will be true for every one of us. For me, there will someday be a last blog post.  I can imagine a short film based on going through a "last day" with certainty. 
The Friday that she took the turn for the worse for the end, I was at a rally at the Capitol for introducing the final legislation that would repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, the cell phone from the hired caregiver ringing in the middle of a critical speech.  And on Saturday, I went  on Amtrak to New York for one day (anyhow) to hear a concert (in a stunning condominium overlooking Central Park) of Timo Andres’s “It Takes a Long Time to Become a Good Composer”. It does.  I went back on the train that night.  She was never able to speak to me again, passing into a coma and passing away Tuesday.  The concert, in particular, seemed to mark the end of one period of my life and the beginning of the next one.
The New York Times today offered an essay by Dwight Garner, “Sprinting Toward the End”, link here.  Some people, when they know they are terminally ill, race to the finish line to finish all their life’s output.  The article discusses Roger Ebert’s volume of movie reviews (and the acumen in them) in the last months, even when cancer had destroyed his face and concluded his ability to eat.  He also discusses the work of Nora Ephron.  “Death is a sniper”, she wrote. 

My own mother did not have a rush to the finish.  After eight good years on coronary bypass surgery at age 85 ion 1999, she declined in slow motion from about 2007.  It was imperceptible day-to-day.  She spent a lot of time on the house, but she didn't "accomplish things" in the sense of public output as described in the article.

Maybe, for some people, it is a dream that doesn’t stop.  The other night, I dreamed I had spotted a particular important friend on the street (not seeing all that I wanted to see), and wanted to catch up with him.  I went back to my car, knowing I had parked carelessly, and could not find it.  I was in a kind of Gotham, a city, but not quite one that fit on this planet.  (Maybe it was that Middle Eastern-looking city in AMC’s trademark  video, with an outdoor theater on another planet.  There are cars on other planets.)  I had to wake myself up deliberately to end this one.  Then everything was fine. 
I wonder if you only find out about other worlds, other universes, when you go.  Maybe only then you remember all of your lives, and can do nothing about them.  You can only be with those you loved.  Among all those souls, you know what is in their hearts and they know what was in yours, a kind of ultimate telepathy, or maybe shared "commons" of consciousness.   Maybe when you’re “back on the bench” you really know.  You have to give up the knowledge of good and evil to even come up to the plate, whether to strike out or hit a home run.  
 One other note:  A couple of times, people suggested to me that the most important thing I could do with my life was to have my mother reach age 100.  Imagine how that comes across!

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