It’s an awful thing to muse about: whether You YOURSELF should have died, and Others should have lived. There are no right answers, and a TON of wrong ones. Here, on the 30th Anniversary of my Maternal Grandmothers’ death, my mindset IS in question. What I tend to say about these things seems to get as much scrutiny as ladies’ hats on Easter in Southern Baptist churches, and just as much judgment.
Since my Aortic Valve Replacement (2 years, 8 months ago now), Death has come to a few I didn’t expect to lose. In my case, I lost my Grandma Lils’ Best Friend – and my subsequent StepGrandmother – Millie, as well as my Stepfather Jack. I watched helplessly as a few male friends lose a parent for the first time as well…
Many WANT to suggest that, if a known catastrophic illness or advanced age takes a life, it’s somehow easier….
Despite heart valve problems being prevalent on my father’s side of my family, few want to discuss it. Though I was told repeatedly that replacement surgery is one of the simplest cardiac surgeries performed, I don’t honestly know of anyone else I’m related to that has had it done, let alone, any woman. What certainly affected my own survival seems to be the same thing that taints perceptions around whether or not a person believes ANYONE should be alive.
Somewhere, someHOW, I was trained or conditioned, learned to feel good or bad about Death or Survival, based on whether or the person involved had been Active, Productive, Sharing and GOOD (as opposed to Criminal or Cruel) with their Time, Talents, Resources and Relationships. As a consequence, when my Grandparents died of either old age-related frailties or catastrophic illness, Death seems to have been reasonable, mercifully ending their suffering. Such ushered in, in fact, encouragement to turn their funerals into posthumous celebrations of their contributions. In the case, of one friend whos’ father died suddenly and, presumably much too soon, his character was lauded as well, due to being perceived as such a good guy, despite having never broken a carcinogenic addiction that may have ultimately cost him his life.
My Life, Character, and Choices (especially now, nearly 3 years after surgery) are NOT kindly looked upon. This year, writing about myself has been hard; I seem to have a penchant for stirring up controversy and derision in churches and mental healthcare practices. Brash and not terribly respectful of hierarchies when things go awry, I lost my favorite part time job, questioning a decision by a supervisor who hired me. Despite good intentions to improve the quality of anything I’m involved with, I was left, in Late Spring, to pursue a scholarship I received to learn to Paint at a local community arts center.
The funeral home up the street is currently advertising a “Legacy Planning Luncheon”; as I’m aware Bovine heart valves rarely last more than 15 years, I wonder if I should even attend one of these, lest my town or county decide it’s cheaper to Murder via Shunning, than wait my heart out. Whatever the current attitudes towards my right to survive, I still try to lose excess weight, look prettier, and attract a mate that might mine my heart and loins for something good, worthy of being boasted about.
Friend Tony – age 45 – knows my challenge; it’s his father that died suddenly and too young. With a weight that taunts the definition of “Obese” and single too, he expresses Guilt over outliving his father. Like me, he doesn’t feel he’s as good a person as his lost loved one; also like me, he’s ravaged with fear, that it’s too much effort to achieve the accomplishments and popularity worthy of admiration. Both of us, Single and living alone, we’ve no person to tell us when doubt casts it’s shadow on our dimples, that we are allowed to survive and enjoy our lives…
My friend and I? We doubt our right to our Survival A LOT. Instead, we try not to take what isn’t ours, mind our manners, avoid breaking rules and laws and avoid looking in mirrors or hurting anyone.
I personally spend a LOT of time HATING MYSELF for Surviving; as long as I’m here, though, I have the chance to change that.
Maybe tomorrow, I’ll make my life Glorious.
(SPECIAL THANKS to AJ Nasella for his contribution to this piece)