LIfe, death and fear
Health and wellness,  That's Life,  THOUGHTS

#Fear Series— #Aging and Sickness

 

life, death and fear

I felt it when I was a child; and that feeling still won’t escape me.

My great anxiety comes over me when I’m around very sick or old people. I cringe inside with fear. When I was young, I didn’t want to be near these people; I didn’t understand why, but as I grew up, I realized that I felt melancholy when around the aged or sick. I felt sad for them because they were no longer young and agile, or felt well enough to be free from their afflictions of old age and/or sickness because they were being held back from the things they once loved to do.

I got too familiar with death and saying good-bye to loved ones by the age of sixteen. Since I was sixteen, for the next fourteen years, sporadically, the hits just kept on coming. I looked after my maternal grandfather when he came to live with us after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, and a subsequent leg amputation. I’d make him tea, and some evenings we played gin-rummy together. All the while, my heart hurt for the pain he was suffering, stoic, and without complaint. Not long after his death, I lost an uncle, a grandmother, my dear aunt who was like a mother to me, and then my own father. In between these deaths, I’d watched them all deteriorate through suffering illness. I sat at many bedsides, visited too many hospitals and been to way too many funerals for my young age.

Throughout my life, I questioned myself as to why I felt so unsettled around the sick and the old, and once again, those feelings have come back to visit.

Five months ago, I buried my mother, and just over two months ago, my mother’s last remaining sibling, my Aunty Lee, who seemed remarkably spry and healthy at the age of seventy-six, went for a routine colonoscopy. The doctor discovered what was supposed to be some sort of minor obstruction and booked her into the hospital a few weeks later to have a simple laparoscopy to repair the blockage. Once they probed inside of her, they found numerous stomach tumors and closed her up. She awoke after the surgery with her natural optimism, thinking that she had been repaired, only to be greeted by her doctor who informed her that she had three weeks to live. I can’t even try to imagine what went through her head when she was handed down a death edict after waking from what she thought was minor surgery from a symptomless diagnosis. But stoic as always, she swallowed her lumps and began to get her affairs in order.

Within days, the ongoing pain that developed had landed her into palliative care. That once brazen, self-sufficient woman, who had conquered so many hurdles in her life and never once complained through any of them, had resolved herself to her demise without a tear in her eye, or a “Woe is me” attitude. That rock is my Aunty Lee. And two and a half months have now passed, and she is still with us. With all her medication and woe, she still smiles and tells us how much she loves us at every visit. She still takes in joy every day with her loved ones. I will never know of all of what goes on in her head, but I know that I still can’t wrap my head around her demise.

Every time I visit her, as I walk the halls of the Baycrest Center for the aged and palliative, that old, unsettled feeling of age and death still looms deep within me. I know that part of my discomfort is because of my empathetic feelings I get for these people. I feel sad for them when I think about how their lives are coming to an end. Sometimes I can almost imagine their pain.

I think I’ve come to understand the unsettledness within me. I believe that it’s my own fears that get heightened when I’m surrounded by inevitable aging and death. I begin to question my own mortality. And I find myself praying harder and faster to God that I will never have to wind up ending my days in sickness, away from my own home.

 

I think that being all too familiar with sickness and death has the propensity to engrave these fears into our minds. I know the secret is to find a way to overcome these fears. Admittedly, I have yet to master this.

 

D.G. Kaye ©April 2015

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D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer, who writes from her own life experiences and self-medicates with a daily dose of humor.

30 Comments

  • Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.

    Like you I have been there at the final moments of my family members and also had many discussions with my mother’s contempories, like her in their 90s.. The one thing that came across was not the fear of death but the nature of that passing.. I think that is probably at the back of our minds too. Excellent piece Debby and it needs to be talked about more. hugs

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting Sally. Yes, no doubts there are thoughts that linger around the dark sides of people’s minds when it comes to sickness. For me, I have always struggled with it. Some things, we just don’t get used to. And, absolutely, it has a lot to death with actual process of passing. 🙂

  • Sue Dreamwalker

    Yes Deb that very fear is what often gets ingrained within us which then can contribute to causing the illnesses we then suffer from… I have recently read a book called The Journey by Brandon Bays.. Have you read it..?… She delved deep to discover why after all her spiritual and alternative, healthy life style she ended up with a baseball size stomach tumour..
    The results of her story are amazing.. As she cures herself in 6 and a half weeks.. Tumour completely gone no traces..
    But what she discovers is the power our young minds hold and how this often gets stored within our very cells…

    I have been working hard upon my self these past few years over my Mother.. .. But I knew also more work was needed after reading her book…
    The layers still keep being peeled away.. And fear in all its forms is a great contributor to ill health..
    Many thanks for sharing… I have yet to blog about what I did.. but I am stuck as how to say it in 500 words or less. LOL 🙂
    I hope you manage to peel back your fears on this one also Deb…

    Have a lovely week.. Sue xxx

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much Sue for your always valued feedback. I totally agree that when we dwell on unhealthy things it can manifest within us. Also, we usually get what we focus on, what our energy is constantly surrounded by. I am, slowly, reading a fabulous book a very spiritual acquaintance put me on to. It was very hard to obtain and I had to send away for a used copy (in rather great condition). It sounds like some of the practices involved in the book you just mentioned may be similar because it speaks of someone terminally ill in same situation, completely cured. I am only 3 chapters in and my time is sparse, so it may take awhile to finish and I would love to blog about it. But in the meantime, you may want to look it up. It’s called THE BLACK BUTTERFLY, by Richard Moss. And thanks for putting me on to another book which I will be adding to my TBR. Happy week to you my friend. 🙂

  • kcg1974

    Oh, Sally, I cried at this open heart of yours, feeling like I ‘know’ you more from within. My sympathy to you at the loss of your dear mother with empathy for what you are going through with your loving aunt. Prayers to you with God’s blessings for strength in the coming weeks and months. Take one day at a time, knowing you are loved by many.

  • Carol Balawyder

    I like your series on fear. I think i fear being sick and helpless more than death. Your Aunty Lee is a true fighter…I like her! 🙂 We should all be so lucky to have such a positive attitude.

    • dgkaye

      Isn’t that the truth Carol. And, yes, that is my fear – being sick and helpless. It’s really quite frightening. Thank you. <3

  • SexwAnnie

    DG, Your Aunty Lee sounds much like my Mom. Spunky ole broads that have taught us how to live life. How to make it through all that life throws at us. They so don’t deserve this kind of ending. It hurts to watch these women who not so long ago were running around living their lives and now they are confined. It’s not fair, and certainly not right.

    They do their very best to hide their pain. But you can see it in their eyes. We need to let them know that it’s Okay to go. To thank them for making us the women we are today.

    The bravery that they possess comes from living life. From beating the odds so many times before. They’ve taught us how precious life is. And that’s a gift I intend to pass on to my own nieces and nephews. I have no doubts that you will do the same.

    As for the old people, well its because your heart is so full of love. That’s why you feel the way you do my friend.

    One day we will be the old people. I only hope we have young people around. Because I do believe the old feel more alive when surrounded by the young. Great post!
    Love you!! Hugs!!

    • dgkaye

      Oh Annie. Your words here brought tears to my eyes. You of all people certainly understand. Yes, both my aunt and your mom sound like they’ve lived parallel lives and what didn’t kill them made them stronger. Like I told you many times, we have to tuck those memories and love in our hearts and keep it with us. In turn, we grow stronger. I love you my Jersey gal! <3

  • Christy Birmingham

    This is such a good read Deb and it reminds me that life is so short… I understand the fears and I hope you use them to propel you to make the most of your days and share that loving spirit of yours.
    I think many people fear dying because of its inevitability and also because of not knowing quite what lays ahead after death. I believe God welcomes us xo
    Much love to you!!

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for your inspirational thoughts Christy. Yes, fear of the unknown is quite common, especially pertaining to death. <3

  • elainemansfield

    Thanks for this honest introspective piece, Debby. Love and death/grief come together at some point. It’s scary all right. In my hippie days, Carlos Castanada wrote about a Native American teacher. The idea was to feel your death sitting on your shoulder. And consult your death, if I recall correctly. Anyone, that’s the way I took it and that’s what I try to do.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for your wise words Elaine. No doubt, I expected to hear something from you on this post, as the topic is your specialty! 🙂

  • Deborah Jay

    Well this came along at an appropriate time for me. I don’t have your history of dealing with deaths, in fact my family are mostly long-lived, but that’s where I’m facing things now, as my parent’s health deteriorates and more and more of my life is taken up with caring for them.
    They are both mid-90s, a fabulous age, but watching the indignities and pains they are going through now is making me think about my own future, with no children to care for me when/if I get to be that old.
    Of course I plan to do it without getting ill or infirm, but you know what they say about making plans…
    I’ve always shied away from sick people, and I’d never really connected it to my strong empathic sense, but I’m sure you’re right, that’s what’s behind it. Unfortunately I can’t (and wouldn’t) avoid the situation I find myself in now, but understanding why it makes me so stressed is a help, thank you.

    • dgkaye

      Hi Deb! I’m glad this resonated with you, and perhaps shed some positive light on things. No doubt, we have much in common. And yours fears about aging are my fears, and naturally. . . that’s not going to happen to us! (Fingers crossed as we fly through life on the seat of our pants.) I also worry about the fact that I have no natural children either. I’ve often told my husband that I have to work on staying healthy because I’ve been independent my whole life and hope to be until the end. Isn’t that what we all wish for? Although, many don’t want to think about it, so I put it out there.
      I wish health and happiness for your parents. And sadly, the experiences I’ve lived through have taught me lots, so if you ever need an ear, you know where to find me. <3

  • Let's CUT the Crap!

    I believe you’ve hit the nail square on. Being around sickness and death puts the fear of our own uppermost in our minds. When my mother became ill, I hated visiting her in the hospital, and then the hospice. I figured I wasn’t good around ‘sick’ people but it turned out to be something else.

    Great post, Debby. Good for reflection.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for sharing Tess. Yes, unfortunately when we are too familiar with losing loved ones, it’s hard not fear our own mortality. 🙂

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