I watched him wither – from a strong, well-considered, vibrant man to a fragile, mentally tortured soul. I watched as dementia quietly slithered inside – molesting his dignity and suffocating his self-respect. And I watched him become simple-minded and confused; cornered and afraid. I watched my father’s mind drift slowly away, as if to sea – a spec on the horizon, and then nothing. I watched his body follow suit; watched him wilt and decay; saw the life struggle to leave him, and then I watched him die.
When disease overwhelmed my sister, its devastation was sudden and careless – seized her essence as though it meant nothing at all; clueless as to the profane loss her absence would create. I could not watch as she quietly surrendered. I couldn’t witness the destruction of someone so dear, and I thought it should have been me. I was older; less significant. I would hardly be missed. But life is imperfect, so she moved along without me.
It is happening again. My mother’s frailty is slowly giving in; her will to live firmly renouncing its hold on life. She flirts with death each day and somehow manages to stay free of its insatiable appetite, but that won’t last long. We know there are no winners in this game – we’ve discussed it. Everyone loses sooner or later, and for her, it has long been later. I confess, there have been times when death seemed the better, more logical servant.
None of this is rare. Everyone has endured the loss of loved ones, and we each clutch a perspective worth adding to the narrative. Every unique point of view is as poignant as it is destructive, but then why should it be otherwise? Death, after all, is no accident. It is an appointment with eternity that escapes no one, offering the promise of everything, and guaranteeing nothing. We all have watched it happen. I know there are many others who have suffered so much more than I; their anguish almost inconsolable; their loss as close to complete as humans can endure. Death has visited me kindly, by comparison, and offered sweet resolution to destinies of pain, trepidation, and torment.
Death brought peace to my loved ones, and for that I am grateful. But here I sit, once again watching, as my mother’s life slowly sneaks away, and the powers that be are forced to accept their inadequate defense against such a foe. I watch her spirit abandon countenance and leave only the frightening panic of facing a life she is no longer certain was of value. I watch as she questions her beliefs, doubts her resolve, and seeks a way to somehow regain her dignity and some meager assurance that there will be reconciliation and relief. I watch as fear slowly gives way to acceptance, while only sleep offers refuge from the horror of knowing your time is now measured in days. Hours.
We all go through it. We are all forced to see. Maybe so we will learn how to recognize our own short comings; possibly to prepare us for our own trip toward the end. Maybe we watch so that others can reveal the roadmap; a more prudent path to follow, perhaps. Maybe we watch because we are curious, or because it reassures us that nothing lasts longer than it should. Maybe we watch for no other reason than to accumulate last looks – some attempt to remember the animated soul before its evicted. More than likely, we watch because, at some point, that’s all we can do. It is life’s only inevitability.
It doesn’t matter how difficult this journey becomes, or how easily we traverse each bump along the way. It always hurts, and sometimes in ways we never really understand. We watch death perform its perverse duty because we have to, and I suspect it watches us as well. Looking away is never an option.
Voices From Forever by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/ZBBmj Available on Amazon
There Is No Silence by Randall Keller http://goo.gl/U6KY7 Available on Amazon.