(Note: This was written in response to "This Post is About Suicide", dated June 10, 2018).
It only takes a morning of hanging around the hospital and its surrounding area to again wonder it.* The place has its fair share of poverty, you see. And the people, ailments. In fact, while waiting at one intersection, I count three - three! - mid-to-late aged and visibly Aboriginal men in wheelchairs, each one missing legs. Or that woman - the one over by the post- she’s often there, leaning against the side of the building. Yeah, her. She’s for hire, you know. And she is not the only one whom I have seen there this day.
And me. Me, I gave blood this morning. Twelve tubes. I came and I offered up my arm up here. Again. And all this while fasting, which I admit that I do not do well at the best of times.** Indeed, to quote the lab tech who read my requisition papers: “a dozen vials of blood is a ridiculous amount”. I agree.
Oh I agree. But we did it, she and I. Her, jabbing at a too-used vein and me, looking away and pretending that what she is doing doesn’t hurt. (It does). And while this lady is pleasant enough and I do like visiting with her, I do not like needles and I most definitely do not like fasting. I have other more pressing things to do. Breakfast to eat, for instance.
But I did it. I did what needed to be done. One more time I gave my arm; I relented. Because this - this agreeing to do whatever needs to be done in order to continue living - well, it’s what we do.
I am forty-four this year. I am now forty-four and full of extra kidneys; I am scarred and I am complicated. And yet today, this morning, I have again left blood at the lab. This time, for doctors to decide if I am both sick enough and yet paradoxically healthy enough to withstand a new treatment being offered to those of us currently living with the Hep C virus. It’s another opportunity to be well, I suppose.
But I will confide in you this; I don’t actually want to do it. Not really. This treatment? It’s twelve weeks long. And can make you (well, me) ill for the duration. Perhaps even longer. Frankly, I am just not ready to be sick again. No. And of course, as with all things health-care related, there is no guarantee that that it will work. That at the end of these weeks that I will be virus-free. These drugs? They are yet another gamble.
And I am tired of gambles.
I am forty-four now, you see. I’ve been at this - attempting to extend natural life by means of medical intervention - for thirty-eight years. And I while I am grateful for the advances in technology and likewise all the doctors and specialists who have tended to my just staying alive I must acknowledge that there is a part of me that wonders when it will be time to stop.
I have wondered this before.
Bear with me. I do not have a death-wish. (If in doubt, see exhibit A, my medical file, beginning at age six. In it you will see a repeated need and then consent for medical help. This, I did, I do, in order to be the best ‘alive’ that I can be, all defunct kidneys aside). No. I have done my fair share of choosing to live, thank you very much. And for now - for now I will continue to do so.
But. But then why. Why do I do it. Why do we remain alive. For if we here are made uncomfortable by someone stopping their life - aka “committing suicide” - and in its wake perhaps so indignantly (and quite understandably) question ‘why would they do it?’, or ‘how could they?’ then shouldn’t the same scrutiny be applied to us yet living? I mean, how can we? How can we move and push and continue to persist in this life? Sometimes at any cost?****
Because I don’t know about you but some days I see men in wheelchairs and watch bandaged women sell themselves. And I - I find myself aged forty-four, tired but at the hospital giving blood. Again.
*And here, I interject my apologies for being blunt. It is not my intent to offend. Such a question comes from a legitimate place.
**fasting while getting blood taken. Read: I was grumpy. I was not even permitted a sip of morning tea. What kind of unholy madness is that? Lab-coated barbarians, I tell you.
****Now, I believe that life itself is intrinsically valuable, that just the fact of being alive - a sentient being - is cause enough to hold worth. In this, all human life has reason to be equally valued, regardless of ability, cognizance, or duration; the baby is on par with the aged. The poor, with the wealthy. I think you get my point.
There is something fragile and mysterious and wonderful about being alive; about being able to BE, to take up space - to make an impact - on this earth.
But here’s the conundrum. I am saying this as someone who exists. I have no direct experience of being dead, or of the afterlife for that matter (I presume that there is one). I am, by lack of direct understanding about anything past this life, necessarily biased towards being alive.
And so, for now, I continue to strive for this ‘aliveness’, accepting kidneys and machine-dependency and various interventions. And yes, sometimes agreeing to drug treatments that I do not particularly wish to do. I will do what needs to be done.
And here (dare say it) is also how those who group themselves into the sacrosanct, the ‘Right-to-Life’ camp can get into trouble. As people yet alive, they - we - can’t imagine not being. It’s impossible. Try it. See? Impossible. So despite praying and believing and yes, even singing about the glorious-afterlife-hallelujah-Jesus! that awaits, it seems that most just prefer to be here, and likewise keep others here, on earth, feet on the ground, alive and dirty, thank you very much.
It's similar to how the healthy can't imagine - truly - what it is to be sick. All the time. And out of that, where those who must accept medical intervention over and over might desire to at least have the power to end life if it should come to that.
Might I go further? I think that on judgment day (or whatever happens) we - yes, us messy Jesus-mongers - will have to stand before an Almighty Being and explain why some of those amongst us chose to idolize LIFE itself rather than focusing on what He asked of us: feed the poor, take care of the widow, tend to the sick and those in prison. I don’t know about you, but I hope we’ve come up with a good excuse by that time.
Because I can’t help but wonder if God sometimes calls us to stop. And - perhaps - that he is less afraid of this than we are.
(Post-note: Please don’t get me wrong. If you are struggling to live right now, I implore you to keep putting one foot in front of the other and move on, in any way possible. Even if it’s a little each day. This is not a post advocating ending one’s life. Not at all. It is, for me as someone who suffers with chronic disease and all its ongoing and rather tiresome effects - flipping over of the when to end life “question”).
To add: I personally have yet to sense this God, my Creator, give assurance that it is time for me to be done. I understand however, that one day he will, and I, knowing his voice, will hear it: it's time to let go, now. It's time to be done, little one. And on that day, and on that day I must admit that there is a part of me that will rejoice, for I will be done. The struggle will be over. The threat of ever needing dialysis again? Over. The need for any more transplants? Surgeries? Living in a body that doesn’t work? This tiresome loneliness of just being? Done. Done. All done! I will move on. Thank God Almighty I will move on. On to bigger and better kidneys. Ones that work. Thank the Lord of All Body Bits, ones that work. And trust me, on that day I will be up there peeing everywhere, all over those heaven blue-skied clouds. Everywhere.
I'd watch out for pee puddles, if I were you.