Don't Curse the Nurse!

Sharing support with stories & humor

A Very Good Read

This is the first time I have reposted something since starting this blog four years ago.

I have a good reason.

While walking through Barnes and Noble, I noticed this book pictured below. I read it a year ago.

when breath becomes air

That little gold sticker on the  right reads, just in case you can’t  enlarge it, here, let me help you,

Finalist for Pulitzer Prize

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I don’t look for these books, they find me, Death Be Not Proud, Before I Go, Being Mortal, and now When Breath Becomes Air — stories that don’t glorify death, only bring to light the questions intersecting life, death, and meaning.

When Breath Becomes Air crossed my daughter’s path (a lover of Hiaasen and Palahniuk), not mine, she mentioned it to me in the same easygoing manner she would share her yoga schedule. Little did she know how much of an impact reading this book who have on me.

Atul Gawande and Carol Cassella are the only other physician/ writers of who’s work I’ve read; Gawande —philosophical and earnest in taking his own experiences and finding the common threads we can all relate to; Cassella , in my opinion, a master of upmarket fiction  who creates stories with characters and themes that jump off the page and hold you captive.

Kalinithe’s memoir, completed by his wife when cancer took him, is a lyrical retelling of his entrance into residency, the day he learned of his diagnosis, and how the blending of his calling and his cancer gave him a perspective he was driven to share until the very end. Kalinithe explained early on that he chose neurosurgery because “the brain is the crucible of our identity and medicates our experiences of the world.” Little did he know that lung cancer would spread to his brain and be one of his last teachers.

I don’t have a fondness for stories about people dying. I am a hopeless romantic who could watch Rob Reiner movies all day. It could be the “doctor becomes patient” thing I find intriguing. William Hurt did this well in a 1991 movie, but, it was fiction. While reading When Breath Becomes Air there is no getting up and categorizing the plot as a well-crafted or full of witty dialogue you want to share with friends.

I feel blessed to have gotten to read this book. Right after “courageous” the word “generous” comes to mind, courageous not because Mr. Kalanithe pushed hard to keep working, keep helping people, courageous because he was willing to put his fears and insecurities on paper and leave them for all to read.

And generous, that’s self-explanatory once you read the book.

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Picking My Plot – No, not that kind.

I got an invitation in the mail to plan my burial. You know, one of those things. The card had a glossy finish, discrete, but classy chestnut brown and dark gold background, the font, italic. Dinner included – at Red Lobster.

When I opened the envelope, I was thrown at first. Baldwin Fairchild did the mail out. I had no spouse in Hospice. My parents — alive and kicking, out daily, hobbies, traveling, yada yada.

I’ve seen something similar to this, except it was for future planning, investing, IRA’s. So into planning my financial future, yes I am, but do I get one of those in the mail like my parents…

No.

I get an invitation to decide if I want cremation or an open viewing, a mahogany or a pine casket; burial in a fancy- dancy cemetery with a view of a lake (like it’s really going to matter to me), or a local plot next to the fine/ expired residents of the city I live in.

I smirk at the irony of this because, see, I made no big deal about turning fifty over a year ago, but obviously Big Brother wants to acknowledge it. Flyers from AARP have gone in the trash. No disrespect to them, but at age fifty-one and far from being able to touch my IRA or Social Security without big penalties, what is the purpose of being inundated with this mail?

Especially mail to pick your burial site.

Let me say that I am an advocate of Advance Directives and making an effort to decrease the minutia of things your family has to do with your passing. The most important thing is to let them know what life saving efforts you want made in the case of significant health decline.

But this stuff in the mail. Geez!

I’m tempted to go to the dinner and ask questions like, “Would if I want to be buried in my back yard? Will this plan pay for it?” Or “I’d like to be buried next to Robert Frost. Is that possible?”

I won’t get any more insensitive about this. (You know what they say about Karma)

Someone told me a long time ago I had to deal with my issues about death.

Silly Rabbit. I’m a nurse. Death strolls through hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics picking and choosing whose time it is. I don’t know him personally, but sometimes I swear, I feel a draft and I know he’s just walked by.

You don’t stay in medicine without giving a head nod to Death and respecting his significance

I’m not afraid of Death. Sometimes I fear I’m not living enough, but I’m not afraid of death. I placed my life in someone else’s hands a long time ago.

When I’m ready to sit back, start counting my days left, and stop living. I’ll let Big Brother know. In the meantime, I have to finish this and go.

I have another doctor’s appointment.

 

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Dying is Easy

 Image via http://www.photographersgallery.comm

 
 
Dying is easy.

Here’s what you do — lay your principles in the sand, or better yet, don’t have any. Smack away the hand of that friend reaching out to you. Follow the faceless crowd. Believe the hype. Love fads.

When you feel that ache in your core, fill it with liquor, food, or carnal knowledge. Let these things overtake you.

Put the blinders on.

Place your faith in tangible things, possessions that can be stolen, broken, or disassembled.

And last but not least, stop caring if you believe it doesn’t matter, convinced the days will go on.
 
If you do these things, you will die faster than you could ever imagine.

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