May 4, 2016
My oldest brother, on the right in this picture, died in his sleep on Friday, April 29, 2016. He was 84. It was a peaceful passing. (My brother Lee is on the left in the photo.) After escaping our violent birth-family as a teenager, Doug was free to create a good life for himself, and he certainly made the best of that opportunity. Ironically, though, along with his three brothers—me included—his initial ticket to a “safer” and happier existence turned out to be a career in the military.
After his service in the army, Doug made a happy marriage that lasted for well over 50 years. His four children, two girls, two boys, turned out well. Doug was a happy man and had a great sense of humor. He was healthy right up to the end. And he was a lucky man, too, in other ways—lucky to be loved by his extended family and a wide range of friends, many of whom dated from his Korean War days in the 1950’s.
It’s not surprising that in many ways, with the exception of marriage, Brother Doug was a roll-model for me. He still is. Doug left this life the way I’d like to go—in bed, asleep, oblivious. A few days after I got the news of Doug’s death, this thought popped into my head: Except for the dreams we have nightly, I believe that deep and contented sleep is the ideal practice for a good death.
March 9, 2016
“Years ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. He had a surgeon explore the area, and the diagnosis was pancreatic cancer. This surgeon was one of the best in the country. He had even invented a new procedure for this exact cancer that could triple a patient’s five-year-survival odds—from 5 percent to 15 percent—albeit with a poor quality of life. Charlie was uninterested. He went home the next day, closed his practice, and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with family and feeling as good as possible. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical treatment. Medicare didn’t spend much on him.”
Ken Murray, How Doctors Die, The Best American Essays, 2012
Originally published in Zocalo Public Square
January 13, 2016
By Oliver Sacks, 1933 – 2015
“When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate—the genetic and neural fate—of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”
New York Times essay.
(Click image to enlarge.)
July 6, 2014
I’ve been going through what seems like a ton of old letters, plus the drafts of my replies; the idea being to get rid of most of that stuff so my kids and/or grandkids won’t have to deal with it when—as the saying goes— “the time comes.” During this recent purge, I came across a scrawled attempt at comic verse that I had mailed to my younger brother some years ago in Virginia for his 69th birthday. Here it is:
A man named Ernie
Lived by the tracks,
Ate little kids
Instead of snacks.
He was so mean
It was often said,
He’d never die
Just stay in bed.
He lived so long
(In the hundred-threes),
Then he finally did go
With brand new knees!
I know it sounds a bit like one of those “Burma Shave” series of “poetry” signs on the side of the road that I used to love to read as I whizzed past. His 75th birthday is coming up later this month and I’ll call him, as usual, and I plan to recite the verse to Ernie when I do. This year, I want to see if he remembers it, and if he does, I’ll ask him to remind me what he thinks of it. I have the feeling I’ll have to once again justify myself by saying, “Hey, it’s the thought that counts.”
Copyright © 2014, Jim Sizemore.