Thursday, March 21, 2013

Take a decade, leave a decade

Last Friday should've been A's 62nd birthday, the 7th birthday now he's missed. I thought I was getting through the day all right, but by dinnertime, I realized I was kind of out of it. Not as much sad as distracted and finding it hard to concentrate. I was trying to put together a complex dinner of grilled burgers and baked French fries, and was just scatterbrained throughout. As I thought about it later, I realized that it was no doubt the birthday doing it. When these milestone dates come up, or something triggers some subconscious grief, it now manifests more often as more brain flatulence than usual, or irritability, or both.

Two weeks ago, we were back in E's hometown, and while we were there, we visited his aged great-aunt, who is pushing 98 now. She's been ready to leave this world for at least 5 years, maybe more, and frankly, I can't blame her. She's been widowed for some years. She has macular degeneration, dementia, and is so physically frail, she's not supposed to leave her chair, even to go to the bathroom, without assistance, lest she fall...again. She spends all day sitting in a chair, watching TV or her birds at the feeder outside her window, and wonders aloud frequently why she's still here. She does it frequently, because she forgets she just talked about it; she mentioned it at least 5 times in the 45 minutes we were there. She's taken to quizzing her pastor why she's still here when he visits, and he tells her that God has a plan for her. She is lucid enough to ask him what is the point of plan involves her sitting in a chair all her waking hours, unable to move, alone in the world but for an aging niece and the people who work at her facility, barely able to see, her body and mind largely non-functional when it comes to daily living, but not broken enough to get on with dying.

I think it's a fair question. She is not having new experiences. She is not learning new things. She is not meeting new people; neither is she able to enjoy the ones she knows--after a little prompting, she finally remembered E, but as a 4-year-old boy; she didn't remember all the times she'd visited with him as a man, as recently as 5 years ago. And she had no idea who I was, other than a friendly face she could talk to. She is merely waiting for her body to finally give out, and frustrated that it hasn't yet. I can't blame her.

I'm not a "God's plan" person to begin with. If there is a rhyme or reason to this life, to this universe, (and I'm willing to accept the possibility that there is), it is irrelevant to my living my life if I'm not privy to what it is. If there is one, then I suspect it is something along the lines of us experiencing, learning, growing, and loving in ever-expanding consciousness throughout our lives; if we aren't doing that, for whatever reason, then we are dead, regardless of our breathing lungs and beating hearts. I tend to operate under the idea that if I'm still alive, I still have work to do in this life. But I look at her, and I see no work left to be done, and even if there were, no ability remaining to her to do it. If there are lessons to learn, and insights to come to, they will have to arrive clear as day in front of her in her tiny room; she will not find them in the books she can't read, or the experiences she can't have, or the housemates she can't communicate with because of her problems, and theirs.

Ever since, I have been nagged by the question of why someone whose life is so obviously at an end, whose experiences have contracted down to televised golf and mealtimes, who is so very ready to go, gets so many years she doesn't want, and sees no end to, and why someone like A, who was in his middle-aged prime, a new grandfather, with a new love in his life, and enjoying his work and his family and me, didn't get even the average number of years humans can expect? He would've gladly had the years that my great-aunt-in-law would gladly dispense with, and those of us who loved him, and her, could not object to the trade, for both their sakes. In this, I cannot ask, "What is the plan?" I can only ask "What the hell is the point?" I find it staggeringly cruel and unjust that the reward for living to a very old age is to lose all your friends, most of your family, your physical and mental faculties, your freedom, such that you yearn for death, even as others are cut down, robbed of years they could've put to better use.

Like all the rest of such questions, I don't expect any kind of answer. But as I see this play out in my own life, it makes me less philosophical and more angry, in a "WTF?" kind of way. It is this kind of thing, as much as anything, that makes me think there couldn't be any kind of plan at all; a 4-year-old wouldn't come up with a plan this illogical, let alone a higher power.