Friday, March 04, 2005


so here's a blog about a letter about a letter about a blog...
(thanks for forwarding this on, marcy...)

"let’s be real, when one is comatose, one is only having nightmares... A nurse wrote to me describing what it is like to care for a comatose patient. Read it and weep. Read especially the part where the only person who changes the comatose person’s diapers was the nurse, not the so-called grieving family... Reality is reality- (marcythewhore)

"reality- what a concept" (Robin Williams album, circa 197_)

The email from a nurse (edited highlights):
In every instance, but one, the family was so convinced that their loved one was responding to them.
Sort of like those situations where a nonspeaking child gives it's mother (or father) long messages of truth and understanding... I stay away from such people. And there are a lot of them.

Like the 19 year old who survived a cardiac arrest, but lived in a vegetative state for the next 5 years. I took care of this lad most of that time. I saw the changes in his family. What happened could be the start of a very long story. Well...

It WAS a very long story. Too long, if you ask me.Yes, he had seizures. Oh they were doozies. Nothing subtle at all. No he didn't breath on his own, nor did he feed himself. He didn't do anything.
Oh... begging pardon.... He stared. All day. And when he didn't stare, he blinked. A lot.
He was a human-sized doll baby, and I fed him, bathed him, dressed him. You know... If I didn't do that, who would? Mommy? Daddy? Bruddy? Oh heavens no!
And when he coded for about the 11th time, and the mother screamed, ranted, threatened direst threats if he didn't survive, it was finally over.
I'm sure no lawyer in this land could not say that everything had not been done. By that time, no one cared, except that it was finally over.
Over, that is until the next one like him.
Of which, I might add, Terry Schiavo and her family are very much alike.
Does Terry Dream? I would venture to say that TS hasn't got two neurons to talk to one another in over a decade.
Poor Terry.

i remember watching rollerball on the late movie when i was a kid.

the part that troubled me was not the violence (it was one of those quasi-dystopian portrayals of an emotionless and desensitized society that were so popular in the 70's, with people cheering while gladiators fought for God and country on a roller derby track littered with burning motorcycle parts and the blood of fallen comrades... the irony of it has been lost today as we grapple with reality tv) but the idea that one moment a person could be laughing with his friends, completely oblivious to the fact that his personal consciousness timeclock was in its final minute, and the next he could be cross-eyed and painless, dragged off the track that had become his whole life- his whole identity. its a great metaphor for gerzon's 'sacred anxiety'... we all know we are going to die, although the circumstancial details concerning the minute and the means are kept from us.

james caan's character, a famously melancholic rollerball superstar from houston named 'jonathan e' goes to visit one such character- his once cocky and likeable, now comatose best friend called 'the swoop'- in intensive care. upon his arrival, he discovers that he is the closest thing to family that the swoop has, so it falls upon him to sign the release form which will result in the pulling of a plug.

i watched intently, wondering what the hero was going to do in response to this whole euthanasia scenario in which he and i had unwittingly become embroiled. i was thirteen and my world view was being formed- even now i remember so desperately needing 'the right answer' for the question on the table.

jonathan e answers the question with a question. "does he have dreams?"

the reply? another question: "who can say?"


jonathan e, in the face of the protests from the man with the clipboard, walks calmly out of the room, having lost the only person left on the planet who actually knew him without requiring anything from him but relationship. i'm not sure which character had it worse. who can say?

i turned the question around and around in my head. playing back hope-filled scenarios and trying to somehow imagine what i would do or what i would have done to me... i still don't know, but i think my perspective has changed a bit since then.

i find i think about my soul a lot more now. i find i ask a lot more questions now, receiving fewer and fewer satisfying answers. i even find myself wondering if the asking of the questions is far greater proof of life and faith than any answer that might presume to satisfy me.

does God recognize inevidabilities that we cannot possibly embrace due to our encasement in space/time, and respond to them with mercy... freeing a soul from its space/time packaging before the final respirator-aided breath?

what is the 'breath of life' described in genesis? is that the soul?

where is the soul kept? where is the 'heart?' is it the mind? is it the human body? does the beating of a heart keep the soul bound and gagged, or is it the breathing that does it?

selah (a word we find in the psalms. it basically means 'hmmmm')

i read a really interesting book called 'what dreams may come' by richard matheson(it eventually became a pretty cool film starring robin williams, but the book is better) which attempts to explore these questions while tipping its hat to almost every form of faith and spirituality on the planet. to his credit, matheson doesn't just write an intriguing story, he cites page upon page of resources and interviews on post-death experiences for anyone interested in pursuing the topic further- he has simply synthesized the 'data' into a narrative.

another book which i found amazing was 'the great divorce' by c.s. lewis, which fancifully deals with the questions of eternal destinies and relationships by describing a busload of the damned who receive weekend passes to paradise, only to one-by-one get back on the bus and choose the hell to which they had been originally condemned. the super-reality of paradise is too much for the 'man-shaped stains on the air' that are the cosmic tourists in the story. that and the fact that the acceptance of God's grace has been the key factor in 'who gets in' sends a number of them storming angrily back to the bus over what's fair, turning their backs on those who, having known them in life, have been charged with trying to talk them into staying.

both of these books, although coming from different places and arguably headed to different places as well, seem to agree on this one idea: relationships matter eternally. we were created for relationships and are spiritually equipped to take those relationships with us.

who can say?


Blogger Icarus Goodman said...

Wel,, I havent seen the original rollerball (and the remake looked hideous) but I'll have to get on that. I wonder, from a Christian perspective, when is ending one's life ok? I do remember reading about Abimilech in Judges, and he orders a servant to kill him because he has been mortally wounded by a woman, and he doesn't want to die by her hands. Nothing is said condemning that action. So is killing yourself early, to avoid pain or shame acceptable in Christian views? Does it have to do with being artificially kept alive? Just wondering.


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