I read the other week about a three year old Salt Spring Island girl who passed away after a car accident. I thought about the special kind of hell her family must have now entered and how every moment that passes and every special occasion will be a reminder of her absence - the tyranny of what could have been. It is hard for me to equate anything I may be experiencing with this overwhelming loss of one so young.
Conversely, after a few days in hospital - which is increasingly the domain of the very old - one can't help but ponder how technological advances can keep us going long past our natural sell-date - when quality of life is questionable at best and the daily indignities of helplessness reveal themselves in uncomfortable ways. Either of two inevitabilities seem to occur if you last long enough - a mind as sharp as a nail inside a body that fails to obey the simplest command or a mind that has drifted into Neverland with a body that continues to move and twist and carry on in the oblivion. Nurses and others do their best with these charges - but you can feel the frustration seeping in - and there are uncomfortable moments when the touch of a withered arm or the tone of voice seems a little too sharp and the language often becomes a kind of forced condescension one might use on a child who is misbehaving. And I sat there thankful that during my stay I could drag my I.V. cart around the hallways by myself and get my own drink of water - avoiding the raw and complete dependence of my fellow patients. Family members would show up occasionally or on a pre-set schedule, sitting dutifully by mom or dad's bed, wrapped in the goodness of fulfilling a duty they didn't particularly enjoy, but being present nonetheless. I imagined them ticking off a box each day, no real meaning or emotion but a sign that they'd been a good child - while waiting for an end that will not come.
I think about all of this in the context of contemplating how much time is "enough" on this earthly soil. What moment constitutes enough before it is acceptable or natural to go? How long does one fight to carry on when the body is failing and when is intervention about what other people want when your body has naturally and emphatically spoken?