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Going to the End of the Line: Death is a Process, Not an Event

We usually think of death as an event but in fact I can tell you it is a process. From the time you are notified that you have an incurable illness...

Hi, my name is George Gould.  I'm 62 years old.  I am a husband, father, retired Naval Officer, and Army infantry veteran of Vietnam. And, oh yes, I am dying.  Two years ago I was diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer, a a rare and particularly aggressive form of cancer with a 3% five-year survival rate for those in Stage 4, which is where I am.  Unfortunately there is no Stage 5.

We usually think of death as an event but in fact I can tell you it is a process.  From the time you are notified that you have an incurable illness to the time you finally cease breathing, you are in the process of dying.  As time goes on, your physical condition deteriorates at varying rates and you are no longer able to do things you have always done and enjoyed.  Smoking, drinking, traveling... One by one, they depart your life and you are a little more Mostly Dead, as Miracle Max says, and one step closer to being All Dead.

This is my first blog entry on my personal process of dying.  I don't know how long I can go on with it but when it stops you will know that I have achieved All Dead and you will then be able to go through my clothes looking for loose change.

This blog, which I've called Going to the End of the Line, will address reflections on my life and the dying process, thoughts on the world I'm leaving behind for the rest of you, and my perspective on what comes after this life.  Most of it will take the form of snapshots and sketches and bumper sticker slogans and lines.  Why?  1) Because I believe that simplicity is generally superior to complexity in that complexity is usually simplicity wrapped in a layer of bullshit with the intent to deceive and bamboozle, and 2) I don't have the energy at this point in my journey to prepare you a meal of bullshit.   Suffice it to say, though, that no one will confuse this blog with great literature, at least that of the verbose genre.

So come along with me on my journey to meet what ever comes next.  Remember.  It's a journey that one day you will take yourself.  I hope that I am able to convince you that there's nothing to fear and that actually it's quite an interesting ride.

I blog at http://gcgould.com.

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George Gould October 03, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Thanks Chris. I'm sorry to hear about your losses. While I'm going to die a little sooner than I would have preferred, I have had the advantage of time to put things in order before I depart on what I call the ultimate voyage of discovery. Let's face it. Regardless of what we believe, or say we believe, none of us KNOWS what comes next. Soon I'll know. I hope I don't disappoint you.
Devon Carver October 03, 2012 at 10:32 PM
I, a dying patient as well, understand you TOTALLY. I have End Stage renal Failure and was told if I don't get a living kidney, I will not see my second transplant. I have turned my pain and suffering and knowledge of my near future into a charity to help others become aware of the need for Organ Donation. A little over a month ago, I almost signed the papers for Hospice to unplug my machine. Death is a tough concept to take in for me, my husband, my 11 year old as well as my community. Stay strong. Be positive. It's so tough, I know, but mental health is first) And reach out, if you need help.
Chris Taylor October 05, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Thanks for the kind words, George. Devon and George, if D'Ann or I can help connect you in any way, please let us know. George, when my father passed away, he left very detailed lists and instructions for my family. It must have been tough for him to do that, but it was immensely helpful for us in a difficult time. I think that's one thing about your blog that really resonates with me.
George Gould October 06, 2012 at 08:41 AM
Devon, Thank you very much for your comments. I greatly admire your efforts to help others through your charity even as you are in such great need yourself. I am sure that your family is immensely proud of you and will find your charity as an outlet for confronting their grief in a positive and productive way. You and I are going to "the end of the line"" from very different directions. Your impending death is tragic. You are a young woman with a child and so much to live for. Mine, on the other hand, is merely interesting. I am an old fart whose children are grown and who has done almost everything he had planned on doing during his lifetime. I had the good fortune to be confronted with a sense of my own mortality as a young soldier in a far away land. Having seen that I was not going to live forever, I resolved to live my life as it happened, leaving everything on the field and holding nothing back for some possible golden years which may or may not ever materialize. Thus I have no "bucket list," having done it all as I went along. I naturally use humor to deal with subjects from which most people tend to shy away. Death is one of those subjects. I'd like to call myself a comedian but really what I am is the class clown, a mild and probably not so funny (at least to some) shadow of a comedian. Many people find my humor offensive and that's OK. I fought for their right to do so. If there is anything I can do to help you please feel free to contact me.
George Gould October 06, 2012 at 08:51 AM
Chris, thanks to you and D'Ann for the offer of help. Yes, I have been working on the "instructions." Actually that is one of the benefits of dying after a prolonged illness as opposed to something quick like a heart attack or getting shot by the jealous husband of a 22-year old.

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