Friday, December 15, 2023


Getting old is messy.  Dying is even messier.

A friend is in hospice after falling down at the garden center and hitting his head.  He never regained consciousness.  He was life-flighted to Mayo, and they tried some sort of treatment for 14 days on a ventilator, and then gave up and sent him to hospice.  It is very sad.  And it illustrates how fragile the human body really is.

TBI - Traumatic Brain Injury - can happen to anyone, anytime, and falling down is one way to do it.  It is the reason why bicycle helmets were promoted for children - and everyone - and why "conservatives" hate them as an example of "telling us what to do!"  But they are a good idea.  Quite frankly, it probably is a good idea to wear a helmet all the time.  But that's not practical.

Bob Saget, the host of "America's Funniest Home Videos" died this way.  As best can be reconstructed, it appears he fell in the bathroom in a hotel he was staying at, and hit the back of his head.  He probably felt bad (headache, dizziness) and went to lay down and fell asleep - and died in his sleep.  Apparently, slipping and falling in the bathroom is a common cause of death, particularly among the elderly, who have balance issues and also weakening of the muscles, as well as arthritis.  But as Saget's example illustrates, it can happen to anyone at any age.

The ironic thing is my friend was just getting over his own father's death.  His Dad was 101 years old and decided to drive into town to buy a watermelon to share with his kids.  When he got home he tried to lift the watermelon out of the trunk and slipped and fell and broke his femur - one of the biggest bones in your body! - and was sent to the hospital.  At that age, a faint breath of air can kill you, and a hospital stay was enough to finish him off.

The sad thing was, my friend was one of those folks who never was able to completely get out from under the thumb of his domineering father.  So once his Dad died, he had about two weeks of "freedom" before he fell.  Life isn't fair.

What is distressing too is the strain this has put on his partner, who has to make these medical decisions and then sit by his side and watch him slowly die.  It sucks.

I recounted before how a friend chastised us for "only talking about money and death" to which I replied, "well, that leaves only sex, wanna talk about that?"  Because everything else is trivial.  Most people shout down these things by concentrating on mindless gossip, politics, or celebrity worship.  But living here on Old People's Island, variously known as "God's Waiting Room" or "Home of the Newly Wed and Nearly Dead" we have seen many a friend and acquaintance shuffle off the mortal coil.

And it ain't pretty.  In any marriage, the one who dies first is the lucky one.  The surviving spouse (usually the wife) has to do the messy business of watching their spouse die and planning their funeral - and picking up the pieces and moving on with life (or trying to) at an advanced age, without the assistance of a life partner.

Little old ladies (LoL's) rattling around an empty house, slowly losing their minds until one day they are found wandering around in their own filth, or dead on the floor, their face eaten by their cats (the fear of one LoL we know).  Like I said, it is messy.

We sort of had a falling-out with our friend since the video above was made many years ago.  He is a decent guy, but I think he was driven insane by his domineering Dad.  We've stayed in touch with his spouse, and we are keeping him in our thoughts as he goes through this difficult time.

Of course, death at Christmas adds a poignant touch.  But statistically, it happens 1/12th of the time.  Mark's Mother had a massive coronary in mid-December when he was 14 years old.  It was during a blinding Maine snowstorm and the local volunteer ambulance couldn't come out.  So he had to sit there and watch her die as his father pounded her chest in a vain attempt to resuscitate her.  Very traumatic and sad.  But such things happen every day, around the world, to various people.  And as a result, Christmas often creates traumatic memories for many folks.

It was bittersweet for Mark at Christmas that fateful year, as the family opened unmarked presents that his Mother hadn't yet put cards on.  They opened the presents and then tried to guess who the intended recipient was.

The thing is, as sad as these things are, life goes on, and we have to keep living it to the fullest.   It seems obscene to make plans for the future when so many of our friends and family have fallen.  But then again, perpetual grief is not an answer, either.

What the ultimate answer is, I do not know.

UPDATE: Curtis Smith passed away today, Sunday December 16, 2024 at 1:30 PM