Why Death Can Be Beautiful

Today is my mom's birthday. She would have been 82, but she died back in February.

What I can't stop thinking about is how life-affirming her death was. The mechanics of it. Its intense physicality. 

Let me explain: My mom had a massive stroke, bleeding on the brain, and lost consciousness immediately. She never regained it. They put her on a respirator, but she wasn't really there. Her mind, I mean. It was somewhere else.

They waited for her children and grandchildren to gather around her hospital bed and then "pulled the plug." We held hands, prayers were said, tears spilled, and then...nothing. She stayed alive, kept on breathing. For 12 hours, her heart raced at 150 bpm, aerobic levels, trying desperately to pump oxygen into her blood. Her temperature shot up to 104. Her breaths came in long and short wheezy gasps, reminding me of a fish out of water.

Her body wanted to live, was pulling out all of the stops to live. There was no longer a person lying there thinking and feeling, but an animal thing, clinging to existence as purely as a worm struggling against the hook.

The body has its own agenda, independent of the mind: a blind reaching toward life. In that way, her death was beautiful, an inspiration, a reminder of the striving at the core of existence. 

I miss my mom. Even her death taught me something.

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