Death and dying
The elephant in the room
A woman commented on a health site that, after battling many illnesses and overcoming them, and after living somewhat close to nature, and also having a dentist she works well with, she feels she will be able to die of old age. At first this does not sound startling but after time it sinks in. Why? Because most of us won't be able to say that. As with my mom, perhaps my dad, and numerous others, it will be death by hospital and meds. The person is not in control. Power structures outside yourself are. The intimate setting and stage for one's end becomes an institutional event. Gone is the intimacy, closeness, and safety of a private environment with meaningful people around you. It can be a corporate affair lead by technical decisions.
Once you are on medications you are vulnerable to side effects, which lead to other side effects, which eventually lead to problems which conflict with one another. Even if you are health oriented as I have been certain decisions in the past might have done damage that is beyond your control. In my case mercury fillings along with root canals have effects that are long lasting and perhaps can't be overcome. With the latter, bacteria in the bone is long living and not easy to eradicate. Difficulties such as sinus problems and arthitis are just some side effects. Implants also carry bacteria, and dentures, that is the newer ones, while clever with their flexibility, emit certain plastic chemicals which can cause reactions, sometimes severe. No matter what your diet is, or your habits, some damage can't be fully reversed.
When I first came to Florida I wondered why so many of the elderly seemed impatient and irritated much of the time. Now I realized most were on meds and subject to various medical trains of thought. What they strove for over their lives, that is control and mastery over one's destiny, is no longer. Hence, the emergence of underlying resentments and anger and the need for escape and pleasures. When one feels trapped, one needs flights of fantasy and entertainment.
There used to be a time when one could pick their time and place to pass on. Ideally, things were wrapped up and a moment of peace was available and some stability was in the air and one was ready to leave. Of course not in all cases, but for some this is how it was. Those with love for you and respect for you were present and it was special. Now it is not in your control. Often it is drawn out. Often it is not spiritual. That is why the elderly are often uncomfortable. A peaceful death is not available. Someone said to me today we are born and we die in hospitals.
Now I've heard hospice does many good things and does try to create a setting for one's passing that is somewhat sensitive. And then there is just the fact that God, if one believes, is everywhere and can ease your situation, even in a hospital. And true, even in a hospital among strangers the light can shine. Granted. Also true is that for many the tribe, community, family is fractured and this is the best that we have. Yes, accepted. I'm not going to quarrel with what is. However, sometimes a standard is needed to compare ourselves to, to see how far we have veered, as individuals and as a collective.
So the lady initially mentioned, a cancer survivor among other things, who rarely sees a doctor, who tries to self-cure, who says she will die from old age through her own efforts and just good fortune, feels she has some control of her end. There is some dignity in that.