Hodgepodge: Liberation in facing mortality
by Charlie Hodge.
In fact I admit to occasionally being terrified – despite my spiritual faith.
I have come to the conclusion that no matter how much analyzing, talking, preparing, praying … one does, facing death is just plain scary. Anyone that says different is either profoundly (and perhaps naively) faith-filled, in denial, or a liar. Despite my wonderful blessings, luck, and medical miracles the past few years – I am still scared.
As many HodgePodge readers are aware the past few years have presented three or four death or near death experiences in my world between two major jaw and throat surgeries to save my life from Osteomyelitis, a significant Emphysema flair up, and January’s rare, weird life-support needing C02 poisoning.
Least painful yet most life threatening (I was on the other side for a while) was the latter – a most bizarre journey which reminded myself, Tez, and others within my close world – just how easily death visits. It was also a classic reminder of how desperately – no matter who you are or the state of your world, one clings desperately to life when on the edge.
The mind and body are amazing things – the will to live and power of mind and prayer even more so. That said, I fully concur that no matter who we are no one avoids death. Singer Jim Morrison was right when he said, “No one get out of here alive.”
And so it was with those words echoing in my mind that I battled back to the land of the living in February with a renewed thanks and appreciation for life. I truly am blessed to live where, when, and how I live, with my job, my home, wife, cats and amazing friends. All of which makes it even tougher to make the decision I have made.
I will not be pursuing a lung transplant.
Last time round at KGH, after much discussion, the life support tube in my lungs was removed – not knowing if I would wake up or not. The longer the tube remained in me the less strength my lungs would have needed for a possible lung transplant. At the time, the desire to seek a transplant and perhaps extend my life for a few years won out. The tube was removed and … here I am.
Since then I have struggled with the choice of rolling the dice on a transplant or not. It is an issue Tez and I have discussed in great detail numerous times over the years. Last month I chatted at length again with the transplant gurus in Vancouver.
Last weekend Tez and I decided to not pursue the transplant.
The bottom line for me in this complex scenario is that it comes down to the quality of life. Lung transplants do not have the success rate nor the funding and research to have matched the success of heart, kidney or other such transplants. Both the pre-operation and post care for lungs are huge, extensive and evasive. For someone of my weight, DNA, compromised immune system, and energy (I admit to feeling a tad burned by the past few years’ close calls) it is a matter of swapping one known disease for the potential of many unknowns.
Quite frankly, I am fed up with tubes, needles, and chasing a non-reality. I am 64, blessed, live a wonderful life, already have lived much longer than I probably should have, and want to enjoy what time I have in my back yard, canoe or the Council table.
I love my life, limited as it may be. I am thankful for all I have been given.
I admit to finding it occasionally frustrating or boggling to watch others squander their good health, fortune, whatever with negative intentions, prejudice, lack of compassion or sensitivity. I have lots of reasons to be angry, depressed, bitter etcetera – but I refuse to go there. I choose to take the high road and try to be open, honest and happy with my decisions.
There is a liberation, an actual exciting, freeing component to accepting one’s mortality. It truly does help one move past focusing on the small stuff that really means diddly squat in the big picture.
A year or two ago I saw a quote in a magazine and wrote it down on a chunk of paper and stuck it above my desk. It reads, “Let death sit on your shoulder and be your adviser.”
It provides a new sense of focus and purpose in decision making and attitude.
I am not in denial when choosing to take the high road. I choose to live with a terminal illness not die with it.
Life is good. I am blessed. If you need to chat about your mortality call me. I’m still in the phone book.