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Posts Tagged ‘death’

So, my father died yesterday.  People die everyday and as I have mentioned before, it is not death, but the dying that is difficult.  But my dad’s death was planned, and that has got to be a special kind of hell.  There are so many ways to die:  People die of cancer, heart attacks car accident, embolism, aneurism, freak acts of nature or the best way of dying of all time, while sleeping.  But what do you do when you must make a decision about death?

My father was a retired minister.  As a matter of fact, I flew from Wisconsin to California to attend his retirement party.  To give you a sense of who my father was, his retirement party was a roast.  To this day, and I am sure my sister would agree, we did not roast him nearly enough.  We all tended on the kind side rather than the roast side, but I guess that is OK.  I think people had a hard time roasting a minster.  Oh well, people may not have understood that my father was not that kind of minster.  In my opinion, he was the best kind.  You can be a christian and still be fun and not take things so seriously.

Speaking of Christianity; here is the worse story of yesterday.  Someone texted my sister to ask if my father was a christian.  Message to all you so-called-christians:  The time of death is not the time to try to ‘save’ someone’s soul.  When Christ visited Lazarus, who was dead, you know what he did not do?  He did not check to see if he was worthy of his time.  He did not ask stupid questions.  He did not make sure that the family believed everything that he believed.  He did not confirm that Lazarus was a good man.  When he was finally with the grieving family, do you know what he did?  Jesus wept.  If you wear a WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelet or have a bumper sticker saying the same thing, I implore you, I beg you, read the Bible so that you know what Jesus would actually do, because based on your actions, you clearly don’t know.  But I digress.

I called my father on Father’s Day, but he didn’t answer.  We had been playing phone tag for about two weeks.  I was calling for two reasons:  One, to ask about the restaurant that he and his wife had newly opened and two, to get him to send golf clubs that he had promised to send me.  On Father’s Day, he was flown to a hospital in Palm Springs because of kidney failure.  He has been in the hospital since Father’s Day, and as you probably know already, he never left.  Unfortunately, this was the beginning of the worse roller coaster ride ever.  Kidney failure is bad (50% survival rate), but not the worse, several trips to a dialysis center and you can live without kidneys.  However, his lungs became problematic and they had to intubate him, hooking him up to a breathing machine.  His lungs did not fail, they were just having problems.  Figure out the problem, get him off the machine.  The problem was blood clots (pulmonary embolism survival rate 30%).  As the nurse said, most people die from the amount of clots seen in his lungs.  OK, my dad is clearly tough, place a blood filter to prevent blood clots from reaching the heart and lungs, and get him on blood thinners (anti-coagulants), problem solved.  He began to bleed.  Quick medical lesson:  The clotting function of your blood is very important.  If you get a paper cut, the act of clotting stops the bleeding.  If your blood does not clot, or if you are on anti-coagulants, you get a paper cut and it may bleed forever.  My father has emergency surgery to find the bleeding and stop it.  The doctor tells my brother and mom he has a 30% chance of surviving the surgery.  He survives the surgery.  As stated before, my father was tough.  However, he must be taken off the anti-coagulants.  It was on that day that I lost hope.  You see, the down side to having knowledge is sometimes you get to figure out the ending before others.  It can ruin movies, which is why I must check my brain at the door to enjoy most films.  In my mind, the blood clots were the key to his survival.  If we got rid of the clots, maybe we could get him off that blasted machine and get that tube out of his throat, which he hated.  But the doctor did not want to give up (for good or bad).  My father also had an infection.  The doctor hoped if he could get rid of the infection, things would improve.  No problem, antibiotics.  They did not work.  Oh yeah, I forgot, my father could not maintain his blood pressure.  He was on pressors.  Pressors (norepinephrine) elevate the blood pressure.  Without the pressors, my dad’s blood pressure would plummet.  On the morning of July 9, the doctor, the wife, and the son (me) called it.  There was nothing more that could be done and we began the process of calling the family to see my father for the last time, because the next day he would be taken off of machines and medications.

I describe this to you because everything my father had was fixable.  Each ailment had a solution.  This was not cancer.  So the question was for a long time, at least in my mind, “How long are we going to do this?”  What is the acceptable amount of time to throw medicine and machines at a medical problem?  It was horrible.  Then, finally, when the decision was made, we had to plan his death.  How do you plan someone’s death?  How do you plan your father’s death?  Your husband’s death?  For right or wrong, I made it my responsibility to make sure that my father’s death was going to go as planned.  Nice and easy.

It’s weird to wake up on the day you know your dad’s going to die.  It would probably be worse if you were aware of your own death date, which I am sure has happened, but I woke up with the burden of responsibility of someone else’s death and unbeknownst to me, it made me extremely angry.  If you interacted with me, you would not have known how angry I was, and I did not know that I was angry.  But I soon left no doubt that I was angry.

To enter the ICU, you need a badge.  It’s a paper badge that sticks to your shirt.  You need a new one everyday.  You gave the security guard at the main lobby of the hospital your badge from the previous day and they printed you a new one.  I forgot mine, so I handed the security guard my driver’s license so he could print me a new one.  Also at the front desk was a hospital volunteer, a candy striper.  She was 75 years old if she was a day.  She proceeded to tell me how the correct procedure is to hand in your previous badge in order to get your new one.  I proceeded to tear her a new one and in no uncertain terms informed her that today was my father’s death day.  Now, my sister was with me.  My sister is a loud, in-your-face black woman.  She calls herself the truth whisperer.  Her blog is The Truth Whisperer.  She silently gave me my space.  I was angry.  Next, we visited my father.  In order to enter the actual ICU either a security guard or a candy striper must use their key card to open the doors.  So, there is a desk at the entrance of the ICU.  My sister and I were with my father briefly.  We just wanted to sit with him a while.  As we walked out, one of the volunteers said in an attempt at humor, “Just a short visit huh?  You weren’t in there very long.”  My sister, The Truth Whisperer, walked by silently to our private family room (reserved for such occasions).  I, on the other hand, proceeded to rip into the group of volunteers at the desk.  I informed them that today was my father’s death day and they needed to be more appropriate with visitors to the IC freakin’ U.  Did I mention I was angry?  I will say this though, all the volunteers were quiet for the rest of the day.

All the family had arrived and it was time.  I addressed the crowd of family and friends.  I explained how the process would take place.  We prayed.  We walked into the room.  We sang a hymn and then I got the nurse.  I won’t go into the details of this part, but this is when I got angry and stayed angry for a while.  It involved the nurse leaving out a drug that I thought was necessary.  It was a drug that I should have made sure was there in the first place.  After heated discussions with several nurses, culminating in a phone call to my father’s doctor, the desired drug was finally administered.  People stayed with my dad, and I chose to leave, because I did not want to watch my father die and I was surprised so many people did.  I also left because I was angry.  I was angry at the situation, angry at the nurses, but mostly angry at myself because I failed in making sure that things went exactly as planned on my father’s death day (By the way, I realize this is the worse expression ever, and I can’t stop using it).  It was like I was an obsessive wedding planner worrying about every little detail and freaking out when any little thing went wrong.  I went outside in the 118 degree weather to ‘cool’ off.  I have no idea why people live in Palm Springs during the summer.  I finally went back to my father’s room to make sure that everyone was doing their job and that he was comfortable.  Literally, while talking to the nurses and making sure all was as it should be, he died.  I think I breathed for the first time.

Everyone handles death differently.  It’s hard, especially when it is someone you love.  I apparently get angry and tell everyone that it is Death Day.  No matter how you deal with it, it is important to understand that death is part of life.  Try to focus on the person’s life rather than their death.  My brothers and I are going golfing on Saturday.  I am certain that my father would have wanted that.  I am also certain that he would want me to play with his full set of clubs.  I can’t imagine that my readers have enjoyed these last few blogs, but I hope reading them has made you think about the importance of your own loved ones.  Hug your family.  Say “I love you” to your family and friends.  We are all here for a relatively short time, so cherish it.  Those issues and squabbles you are holding on to simply are not worth it.  And if you feel the need to judge or evangelize during times of death, just remember one thing: What Would Jesus Do?  Jesus wept and so do I.  Thank you for reading.

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My father, Ronald Woods, died Tuesday, July 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm.  He was 76.  I’m just sayin’ …

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So, the following blog is emotional diarrhea.  I suggest that you do not read it.  I apologize.

I am not struggling with death, I am struggling with dying.  For the last 24 hours I have been thinking about how I want to die.  How do you want to die?  Or a better question:  How do you want to live?  You see, my father is not dead.  I can’t even say that he is dying, but he is alive.  I should be happy that he is alive, but I am not.  I want him to be living.  I have never understood the difference between being alive and living more than I do right now.  It is amazing how unprepared I am for this situation.  Why am I so unprepared for this?

In part I am angry at the church.  I have been to church most of my life.  My father is a pastor.  I have read the bible from beginning to end.  I believe, have faith in, trust and obey God.  I can think of the countless number of sermons I have heard regarding death and the afterlife, but not one of them ever addressed the fine line between life and death.  I have been thinking about Terri Schiavo.  Remember her?  She was big news for a while.  Terri Schiavo had a heart attack in 1990 and suffered severe brain damage.  For several years, doctors attempted to improve her brain function, but eventually she was diagnosed as being in a vegetative state.  In 1998, her husband petitioned to have her feeding tube removed.  Terri Schiavo’s parents attempted to block her husband’s petition.  It made national news.  Several politicians, including the President of the United States, George W. Bush got involved.  After years of court battles, people protesting in the streets, and massive news coverage, her feeding tube was finally removed in 2005.  Luckily, my situation is nowhere near the severity of that case, but all I can think of is how dare we get involved in that family’s business?  How dare we!  Why do we fight to keep people alive under any and all circumstances?  Is it the sanctity of life?  Is this what the Bible teaches?  Does a woman in a vegetative state in bed for well over a decade glorify God?  Were her parents just happy that she was alive?

I think people are afraid of death.  I don’t care if you are an atheist or a lifelong bible thumper, you are not likely to run in to death’s arms.  You will most likely go kicking and screaming.  Whether you are the atheist praying to the God that you don’t believe in as your plane is crashing to the ground or the believer that is praying to not be taken to that supposedly awesome place called heaven, no one wants to die.  As I stated in my last blog, I have no fear of my father’s death.  He will be going to a great place, but he is not in a great place right now.  How long should he remain in his current state?  How long would I want to remain in his current state?  The whole situation pisses me off.

In part, I am angry at science.  I know how the body works.  I know what every drug that is being pumped into my dad’s body is doing and what it is for.  I look at the blinking screens and can explain to you what each number means.  I also know that if it weren’t for science, he wouldn’t be alive right now.  I blame science for being in this current situation.  Before all of our medical technological advances, people died.  It was sad, but it was part of life.  Science teaches that if we can just figure everything out, we can cheat death.  Who would not be happy about this?  Babies are being born now that would have certainly died 10 years ago.  You can smoke and be 100 pounds over weight and be confident that there will be a drug that will allow you to continue to live in your “horrible life decisions” state.  Major disorders are being cured at the genetic level.  Our current generation believes that technology will fix everything, so why worry about your diet, exercise or health?  And why should they worry?  Technology is doing amazing things right now.  Eventually, no one will die.  Right?

I don’t know what the answers are to my situation or any other situation that involves death and dying.  I want him to be more than alive, I want him to live.  I wish I could talk to my father about this and discuss our current situation and ask him what he wants to do, but I can’t right now.  But one thing is for certain; I need to talk to my family about this; my wife, my mom, and eventually my kids because I would prefer to not be in this situation again.  I don’t want people fighting and trying to figure out what I would’ve wanted.  It is difficult to deal with the death and dying of a loved one.  Everyone is dealing with the issue in their own way and everyone is stressed and sad.  I don’t want my family fighting.  I don’t want my family to stop living while I am dying.  I want my family to bask in the knowledge of my love for them and trust that death will not be the end of me, but just the beginning.  I also want my family to focus on how awesome I was in life.  For all those reasons, you can let me go.  But if I am going to make sure that happens when the time comes, I am going to need to have the hard conversation about death.  If you are still reading, and if you haven’t already, maybe it is time for you to have the hard conversation now too.

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How do I want to die?  If all goes well, the earth will be attacked by aliens.  I will discover the weakness in the mother ship and everyone knows once the mother ship is destroyed, the remaining ships will follow.  Using a disguise of cabbage and cranberry juice poured over my body, I will sneak into the mother ship, killing at least 10 aliens with hand-to-hand combat, steal an alien weapon, grab the keys off a dead guard that I had to shoot, release the earth prisoners, which would include the President, hand the alien weapon to the President and explain to her how to get out of the ship safely, of course she will say, “What about you?”  I will say, “Mrs. President, it’s the 4th of July, and we haven’t had our fireworks yet.  It’s time for the big finale.”  I would then place my arm around her and give her a big kiss and say, “If you don’t mind, could you give that to my wife.”  The president and the other prisoners would run out of the ship.  I’d make it to the engineering room, overload the engines, find a button that will destroy the whole ship.  The alien commander bursts into the room, looks at me, I look back at him and say, “Yippy Ki Yay Motherfu…” -BOOM!!!  The whole world looks up and sees the explosions of all the ships and the Earth is saved.  The President says, “We owe our lives to that man.  We will honor him for years to come.  He was a father, husband, a great American, …” and then as a smile comes over her face, “and a great kisser.”  Pan out, show awesome alien ship explosions, cue 1812 overture and roll credits.  I’m just sayin’ …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love it when you stay to watch the credits and there is more movie.  Especially if after watching the credits it suggests a sequel.  For example, after I explode the mother ship, it turns out that by pushing the button, it automatically placed a force field around me.  I am encased in this bubble and I begin to float down to Earth.  I am shocked that I am still alive.  I start to laugh hysterically about how I just cheated death (This is important to any great movie.  Americans hate it when the hero doesn’t survive.  See blog above).  As I am floating down to earth, I stop laughing, quickly sober and realize, “Crap!  My wife is going to kill me because of that kiss!”  Continue credits.

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So, I am on a journey half way across the country to see my father, who is gravely ill.  He is currently being kept alive by chemicals and machines and it is likely that my trip will not end well and it is very hard on me.  However, I am struck with thoughts that are going through my mind as I drive across this great land of ours.  More specifically, I am struck by the thoughts that are NOT going through my mind.  My dad is going to die and that is a sad fact.  Whether today, tomorrow, or by some miracle years from now, one fact remains:  He is going to die.  And I am surprised, no shocked at how confident I am of where he is going upon his death.  This is not a sermon, nor some sort of trick to convince my readers to believe in God and Heaven, but a confession of my true feelings.  It is not his end that my mind is focused on, but his whole story.  It is like a book or video game I wish would not end, because I feel like I am just getting into it.

In times of death, we obviously focus on death.  For many people, death drives their lives.  You may even know people who are religious and all they can talk about is what happens when we die.  It is kind of like Jurassic Park III.  I hated that movie.  However, when I really examine my movie watching experience; in retrospect, I was enjoying the movie until the end.  The ending was so bad, it is all I can remember from that movie.  We can be so focused on the end, it can ruin the beginning and middle.  If you want me or anyone else to believe in God, don’t talk about heaven or hell, just show me a story worth reading.  I think my father had a story worth reading.

My father used to smoke.  I must have been around 10 or 11 when  I asked him, “Why don’t you smoke anymore?”  He said he prayed about it and God took it away.  End of story.  After my parents divorced, he would pick me up on the weekends.  Sometimes he had to work on the weekends.  He was a bus driver.  He still picked me up, and I would ride with him on the bus all day.  It was during these trips that I learned to give up my seats for the elderly and those with physical needs.  I saw him talk to everyone, often bringing up God in conversation in the same matter of fact tone as the story of him giving up smoking.

My father also use to annoy the hell out of me.  As soon I learned to drive I made sure that I never visited him without my car just in case I needed to make a quick getaway.  He was the king of unasked for sermons, advice, lectures, stories, teachings, “you know what your problem is”isms.  It got old.  My father could also say some pretty racist things, at least in my opinion.  At some point, I learned stories of how people, specifically white people would treat him growing up.  Now I am amazed that he talked to white people at all.

I loved family vacations.  Family vacations taught me to be aware of my surroundings.  My father would ask me what a sign would say as we drove.  He would do this with little time, so I had to read fast to complete his challenge.  Eventually, I learned that if I read and memorized every sign that we passed, I would always be able to get the sign questions correct.  It is amazing how many stories like that are running through my head:  Driving across country; turning a one-story house to a two-story house;  trips to “see a man about a dog or horse”, a phrase that I still do not understand; showing up unannounced at my house; lecture after lecture about every subject under the sun; mini-sermons; and more mini-sermons.  It has been a neat story, a story I wish would not end, at least not right now.

I will see my father tomorrow.  The end of his story is likely to be sad, but unlike Jurassic Park III, it is not the end that I will remember most, but the beginning.  It is not the end of my father that has made me who I am today, but all the other parts of the story.  You see, I am not on this journey alone.  My son is with me now.  I am sure I annoy my son at times too, but when I think of my story, I think of my dad’s story.  His story has led to my story.  It is not the end.  Think of it more as a sequel.  Thanks Ron.

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On this trip I have learned that my son is really into Sponge Bob.  As we stopped at a rest stop to have lunch, he was making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.   He asked me, “Where does jelly come from?”  I told him I am not exactly sure, but I am sure it involves mashing up fruit and adding sugar.  He was visibly shocked by my answer.  So, I asked him where did he think it came from?  He said, “From squeezing jellies from the ocean.”  I couldn’t help but laugh and luckily he laughed too.  I told him he was watching too much Sponge Bob.  I’m just sayin’ …

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So, for some reason I woke up this morning thinking about death. It may have to do with the fact that I have been with my family for the last 67 hours and 20 minutes, but who is counting. I love my family, but holidays are stressful.

It starts off with trying to get out the door. We got three kids, and we need to make sure everyone has what they need for the annual trip to the great white north. Of course, this year, the north is not so white. Not a flake of snow this year, and it’s Minnesota. What is up with that? I am not a huge fan of snow, but even for this California boy, it is weird. It does make the drive less stressful, which is nice. This year is particularly difficult, as I still have grading to do, my oldest is sick as a dog, and I can’t seem to figure out why on God’s green earth my wife’s suitcase is so freakin’ heavy. Next year I am implementing a new family rule, if the wife can’t load it into the car, it is too damn heavy. If I was an airline, I would charge her 50 bucks. Actually, I like that idea better. Just call me United, because I am charging for extra bags and over the weight limit bags next year.

There is also of course, the standard snide remarks and evil looks. “We were supposed to leave an hour ago.” “I am hungry” – this is not the kids, it is me. “Can you change Violet’s diaper?” “I can’t do that at the same time as doing the last thing you asked me to do.” “Where is the camera?” “Why is your suitcase so heavy.” “Did you bring the camera?” “Maybe it is in your suitcase.” “I thought you had it.” “I didn’t have it, why would I have it?” “You had it last.” “No I didn’t, you used it at that thing.” “It doesn’t matter, where is it? Oh here it is.” And then of course, after everyone is loaded in the car, the wheels are beginning to spin in reverse, the it-never-fails, “Shoot! I forgot something.” Ugggggggghhh! Eventually, we arrive to the father-in-law’s house without incident. Let the holidays begin.

As I said before, my oldest son was sick. He is feeling a lot better now. While we were trying to get out the door, he was asleep in his bedroom. We did not leave without him, but I thought it would have been funny if we did. The reason I thought about this was because I completely forgot about him as I was loading the car, then all of sudden he came out of his bedroom with his backpack full of the things he needed for the trip. I then thought, “Oh yeah, my son is coming with us.” How funny would that have been if we had left without him? Half way to Minneapolis, “I feel like we are missing something.” I told this to my son. He did not think the possibility was as funny as I did. Did you know that many people have a story of how their parents left them alone somewhere when they were a kid? If I remember correctly, my ex-wife was left alone at a gas station. She came out of the bathroom and her family was gone. I wonder how often this happens.

So, back to death. As I stated, I woke up this morning thinking of death. Not in a Nicholas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas sad kind of way, but more in a uplifting Leanardo DiCaprio, Titanic kind of way. My heart will go on. You see I have been very impressed with my kids over the last couple of days. Let’s start with Violet. She was wonderful in the car (almost five hours) and seems to be comfortable wherever we go. She explores, smiles. and interacts with everyone. She is quite frankly, a joy. My son, Isaac is awesome as always, but what has been most wonderful is his patience. If you have ever met my son, Isaac, you know that he has enough energy to power a major city, and I mean Los Angeles. And with all the waiting around, packing and unpacking, he has been awesome. And finally, my oldest, Brett Jr. He brought his violin. And has put on two concerts already, and the family has loved each and everyone of them. I am so proud of the way that he has presented himself and how wonderful it is to watch him play the violin for others. He has one more concert, and that will be on Christmas day. He is amazing.

So, when I die, I want there to be no ambiguity in my children’s minds on how I feel and felt about them. On my deathbed, there will be no question of how much they meant to me. Why? Because I will tell them now, and everyday until my death. In this holiday season, regardless of your belief, take a moment to let the ones you love know how you feel. Don’t let it wait till your eulogy, tell them now. May love be shared this holiday season, and may it be shared as strong and powerful as the One who gave His Son to be born on Christmas Day. Merry Christmas everyone!

Cool. It’s snowing.
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I was at the post office and I saw a Kwanzaa stamp. Are people still doing this? I am black, and I’m still unsure exactly what it means to celebrate Kwanzaa.  I agree with Stanley’s response to all of the political correctness surrounding the Holiday Season, from the TV show, The Office, “I don’t want it.  Christmas is Christmas is Christmas is Christmas.  I don’t want no Kwanzaa wreath.  I don’t need no dreidle in my face, that’s its own thing.  And who is that black Santa for?  I don’t care.  I know Santa ain’t black.  I could care less.  I want Christmas!  Just give me plain baby Jesus lying in the manger Christmas!”  I agree with Stanley.  I’m just sayin …

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Prelude:  I am particularly proud of this year’s resolution.  So read to the bitter end if you want to know what it is this year.  It is a doozy and 99% guaranteed to succeed.  Anyhoo, you know I have been blogging since July?  If you are one of my regular readers, THANKS!  You are awesome!  I still can’t believe people read my ramblings, but I sure do appreciate it.  I plan on doing a Blog Remix before January ends, so stay tuned.

So, it is New Year 2011 and it brings my first major annoyance of the year.  You see, I try to do cardio at least once a week.  I shoot for two, but I do not hate myself if I can only get in one cardio workout a week at the Y.  I usually go when my son is at swim lessons, so it works out.  However, I hate going to the Y in January to mid February.  Why?  It is simple, New Years resolutions.

You see although I only go about once a week, I am considered a regular.  As a regular for the last couple of years I can also recognize the other regulars.  One thing I notice in January is that there is about a 100% population rise in the gym.  It is the only time that I have to wait in line for an elliptical machine.  You know what this means?  About 50% of the YMCA membership is people who only go to the gym one to one and half months out of the year.

It has got me thinking about New Year’s resolutions.  Does anyone keep their resolutions?  Why make them?  Does it give people a sense of accomplishment that they INTEND to be better.  How about just be better.  I am stepping up my workouts because I have decided I would like to live as long as possible.  You would think this is an obvious conclusion, but it’s not.  It is a new feeling ever since my daughter was born and I realized that when she turns 20, I will be 60.  I realize that in this modern medical age 60 is not old, but I think 60 is only young if you are in good shape.  If you are in bad shape, 60 is old.

A friend of mine’s father passed over the New Year’s weekend.  It was a surprise.  He died of a massive heart attack and it got me thinking, tomorrow is not promised to anyone.  So, I can’t rely on New Year’s resolutions to get in better shape, or tighten up the ship (Although I did make a resolution for 2011. See below), the time is NOW.  So, if you have a desire to be better in some way or another, then make it a daily resolution, because we all fall and we all mess up.  Don’t be a yearly resolution person, because tomorrow is not guaranteed, there is only today, and even that might be cut short.

Happy New Year everyone!

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Every so often I have to take a piss in the dark.  It is usually when I go to bed late and I do not want to turn on the lights to wake up my wife or baby daughter.  Luckily for me I almost never get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.  That makes me happy as it hopefully means my prostate is still about the size of a walnut.  Anyhoo, I find it fascinating that despite the fact that the toilet bowl is about a foot in diameter, there is no guarantee that I will be pee accurate in the dark.  Which brings me to my New Year’s resolution.  I will get 99% of my urine into the toilet bowl this year.  TMI?  Probably, but the penis does not always shoot straight.  I might invent a penis laser sight.  That be awesome! Who wouldn’t buy that?  I’m just sayin …

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So, what would you do if you knew you were going to die before the age of 50 and the last 10 years of that life would be in various stages of dementia?

I teach introductory biology at the college level.  Every year about this time I am finishing up the genetics portion of the class, specifically inheritance.  We talk about dominant versus recessive traits and what they mean for diseases, such as Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s Disease is determined by a dominant gene.  What this means is that if you receive the defective gene from your mother or father, you will have the disease.  This is in contrast to a disease like Sickle Cell Anemia which is a recessive disorder, meaning you must receive the defective genes from BOTH your parents.  If you have Huntington’s disease (a dominant disorder) and you have children, there is a 50% chance that your child will also have the disorder.  It would be like flipping a coin, heads your child has the disease, tails they do not.

What is Huntington’s Disease (HD)?  Huntington’s is a disorder that affects the nervous system.  People with HD will lose muscle control, and most noticeably, loss of mind control.  They will eventually develop the characteristics of someone with Alzheimer’s and then die.  Currently there is no cure.  Once symptoms begin, the life expectancy is 10-20 years.  Symptoms can begin as early as age 20.  Although there is no cure, the test to determine if you have HD is relatively simple.  As a matter of fact, we simulate testing for HD in the introductory biology lab.

So, why am I writing about this?  Well, every year I ask my students a simple question: If one of your parents had HD, would you want to know if you have it?  There is a 50% chance that if your parents have HD, you will develop it as well.  I generally get a 50/50 split on those that would want to know and those that would not, however, if a students wants to know if they have HD, the reason is always the same.  I have paraphrased the most common reason below:

“I would want to know if I have HD because I would live my life differently.  I’d have more fun, do the things that I want to do, knowing that I would die in the relatively near future.”

And my response is always the same:

“Why aren’t you living your life that way NOW?”

So, my question to all my readers out there is; “Why aren’t you living your life that way NOW?”

I am always amazed at the number of people that I meet that are miserable, I mean just plain miserable.  They hate their jobs, they hate their marriage, they hate people, and in general they hate their life.  Don’t get me wrong, I hate people, but I don’t hate life.  I love my life.  It is not perfect, but there really isn’t much I’d do different if I knew I were to die tomorrow.  Actually, that is not true, if I knew I was going to die tomorrow, I certainly wouldn’t spend it at work, but if I knew I was going to die in 10 years, I don’t think I would quit my job.  I like my job.  Trust me, my life is not perfect, but I can honestly say that I would not plan drastic changes for my life.

What I think the Huntington’s Disease question does is make you think about how you are living your life.  Are you living a life that you are proud of? Happy with?  Or, like my students, would you make drastic changes if you knew you would die in 10 or 20 years?  Do the people in your life know that you love them?  Are you making choices that make you happy, or are you waiting for the world to be different so that you may reap its benefits?  Trust me, if the latter is you, wait no longer, because the world ain’t changing.

If you believe in God, are you right with Him?  If you don’t believe in God, are you OK with that?  How will people look at your life after your gone?  “I can’t say much about Frank, but one thing I do know, is that man loved to sit on the couch and watch TV.”  Will this be you?  Funny thing is, that is partially me, and I am OK with that.  The bottom line, are you OK with things, knowing that one day you will die?  I’m not saying eat, drink, and be merry, but be right with yourself, and be happy with where you are NOW, for tomorrow we die.
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If I die tomorrow after posting this blog, know this, I died pissed.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in what I wrote above, it has more to do with the fact that I HATE irony.  If I die tomorrow, you know what people will be talking about, this stupid post.  I am almost not going to post this for that very fact.  So, if I do die tomorrow, and you are being interviewed about this post, here is how I want it to go down.  “Excuse me miss, it is my understanding that you read Brett’s post before he died?  How did that make you feel?  Was it eery?”  Here is what I want your response to be:

“Post, what post? Ohhh, the one about dying?  Yeah, that sucked.  No, not that part about him dying, but the post.  It just wasn’t his best.  He even bragged about it as one of his favorites.  Honestly, I just didn’t get it.  I did like the post about the McRib though.  Mmmmmm, McRib.  As a matter of fact, I’m heading to get one now.  Gotta run.  Peace!”  [Give your back hand of the two-finger peace sign and bounce].

Then the McRib has it’s best-selling year EVER!  How could you not think of me every time you saw the McRib.  Pure Awesomeness!  I’m just sayin’ …

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