By the end of the day, we were as blank as the huge whiteboards at the front of the room. Within the next 24 hours, these would start filling up with diagrams of cell-transport mechanisms, cartoons of developing embryos, maps of the brachial plexus. But on that first day, the lectures were so inconsequential that only one speaker bothered to write anything down. This was a pathologist who also wanted to reduce medicine to its essentials. He scrawled a single word on the board: DEATH. Just avoid this one thing, he said, and we'd be okay.Read the article. Society needs to acknowledge death.
What I have learned from my patients since that day is that we give death power (as if it needs it) — power not to kill us but to rivet us, to silence us, to drive us from our humanity while we still live. We give death power precisely to the extent that we work to ignore it, to blind ourselves to its closeness, to imagine we have the power to stave it off forever. If we go through life imagining that, then the moment when we are forced to look at death can only rupture everything we know and paralyze us, still alive. That's not a good way to die.
Death may be, as Wallace Stevens has it, the mother of beauty. But it's also a lot like that Krebs cycle: It just keeps happening, whether we pay attention or not. You really can go about your business, as long as you remember that death is taking care of his. Air goes in and out. Blood goes round and round. Oxygen is good. Take care of yourself. And totally Melvin somebody today.
March for PROGRESS
1 week ago