I almost died.
Maybe not ‘almost‘, but I could see the sun setting on the horizon. I had a trans ischemic attack, a kind of mini-stroke. I may have also had a heart attack. Whatever it was, it was painful and scary.
It wasn’t a surprise I guess. I am guilty of some hard living and my body the worse for it. Still, it was a shock. An electric reminder that I was indeed vincible. My body was telling me in no uncertain terms that this was the truth of it.
Like pain, laying in an ICU wondering if this is ‘it’, has a clarifying effect. You become frightened that every beep, missed beat, difficult breath, and painful twinge is the ‘one’. I couldn’t sleep, even for a couple of days after getting home.
What clarity did it give me, you ask? Well, mostly, I was angry. I don’t fear death. It is the natural state of the universe. Entropy happens, and I was running smack dab into my own heat death.
I suppose recognizing that our time on this planet is finite occurs to everyone staring at the abyss. I laid in bed that first night in the hospital, and every night since then, worrying about it.
As I said, death doesn’t frighten me. I have never lived this life worried about what’s next. My kindness to my fellow human is and was never dependent on whether I was going to be rewarded with some mystical afterlife.
After that jarring moment, I am taking stock. This is not to say that I wasn’t before, but death was purely conceptual. Something you consider in deep philosophical discussions of life, destiny, and purpose around a campfire with relaxing music playing in the background.
That Monday, it wasn’t a passing thought. It was in front of me. My mortality came to visit and no matter how many times you have thought about death’s onset, it is nothing like what I thought.
Some of it is simple; What could I have done differently?
Some of it is pragmatic; What could I have done differently?
Some of it is introspective; What could I have done differently?
Some of it is existential; What could I have done differently?
None of it was with regret, and it still isn’t. I have lived a decent life despite the world’s dodgy nature. No, I was upset because I still have stuff to do, places to go, people to meet, family to cherish, including a grandchild to welcome.
Facing my finitude in the universe, I learned that I can’t take tomorrow for granted. All of it raises questions.
Some of it is simple; What can I do differently?
Some of it is pragmatic; What can I do differently?
Some of it is introspective; What can I do differently?
Some of it is existential; What can I do differently?
About a year ago, I started feeling these things in my bones. I smoked too much, ate crappy food, and was physically unhealthy. Way back then I decided, that I would try to do one little thing every day. Just one thing to improve me. It may just have been a walk around the block, or, quitting smoking after forty years.
That was one reason I was upset. I had been doing one little thing. I was inching forward, slowly but surely. My body had other plans. No amount of self-will was going to change that.
As John Lennon said, ‘Life is what happens when you are making other plans’. Laying in that ICU, I realized that even with few regrets, death, to put it mildly, sucks. Even worse than life. All the steps of my life led to a bed with wires sticking out of me and I didn’t like it.
Of course, I blame myself. Nobody forced me to live such an unhealthy life. My anger was at the time I wasn’t going to get. That raises a whole different set of questions.
Some of it is simple; What am I going to do differently?
Some of it is pragmatic; What am I going to do differently?
Some of it is introspective; What am I going to do differently?
Some of it is existential; What am I going to do differently?
You see, I still have things to do. This go around, I am going to make sure I get them done.