On Letting Go Of Life
A couple years ago, when I was visiting my grandmother in Mexico, I decided to finally read Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Everyone had read it growing up, either for fun or in highschool as part of the English program, but I never did.
So I finally decided to see what it was all about.
One quote stuck out to me:
Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can.
Isn’t this how a lot of us see death? An evil spirit that robs us of life? Something we need to escape? To protect ourselves from? Why is death such a negative thing? Why do we cry when our loved ones pass? Why do we become angry and bitter at death?
There is one thing that every single living thing on this Earth all share: It is that we will all leave this Earth when our time comes.
Several days ago, I had a patient actively dying from a late stage cancer that had metastasized to other parts of her body. We all knew she was dying. She even looked at me while I was talking with her:
Her sad eyes and soft smile…
“I’m dying, you know…”
What should I say in response? I can’t deny the truth. But a simple “I know” sounds too harsh.. Why am I caring so much about what I say? She’s the one that’s dying..
Maybe her passing was harder for me than it was for her.
Maybe she was ready to go. She had said that she wanted to see her dog one last time, and she did… Maybe she was ready.
But as I stood there, my fingers on her carotid, feeling her pulse get slower and slower, hearing her agonal breathing come to a gradual halt, I couldn’t accept the fact that she had passed. She was still the one with the soft smile and sad eyes, the one that had loved her dog dearly, the one that was having trouble breathing and kept coughing up blood.
Now she was just a body.
Her soul had left.
I couldn’t help but try my hardest to hold back tears. Maybe I should have held that last dose… Maybe I should have spent more time in her room and kept a closer eye on her… But she was dying.
My head was a whirlwind of back and forth conversations with myself.
Maybe Yann Martel was wrong. Maybe life is beautiful and death is beautiful too. Maybe we should celebrate a life well-lived instead of mourning a death.
Maybe death isn’t the opposite of life, but a part of it.