Monday, April 21, 2014

Is Today a Good Day to Die?

The other day I had a meltdown.  It was inevitable, really.  I've just got too much on my plate right now, and I had to throw open the door to my Shadow closet before it either imploded or exploded.  So it was actually a good thing, although the timing could have been a little better.  ::sigh::

Among other things, something that has bothered me for a long time but now has become a front-row issue  is how our society deals with aging and the elderly while at the same time spouting the praises of modern medicine's ability to allow people to live longer.  Every other weekend I visit a place that is full of older people who are no longer capable of living alone or taking care of themselves.  Some have physical issues, others have mental issues, and the really lucky ones have both.  Some have devoted family members and/or friends who visit frequently and keep them at least marginally in the social loop, while others are totally alone because either their families and friends have abandoned them or they have no one who is still living or close enough to come. Many of them lay in their beds or sit in their wheelchairs and just stare or sleep all the time.  Are they content?  I have no idea.  My grandmother was becoming one of those people towards the end, especially when she could no longer hear or make herself understood to those around her, and I know she was not enjoying that.  She had been telling my mom for years that she was ready to die anytime; she was just waiting to go.  We thought she had a health care directive ("living will") that indicated her wishes, but we were unable to find it; we still have no idea where it is, or if it ever existed.  She was fortunate that she died naturally, before any decisions about life support had to be made.

I'm not afraid of death... I'm afraid of being forced to continue living after my body has decided it's time to die.  While I do have a health care directive that clearly states I do not want to be kept alive in a permanently vegetative state, and I believe that both my husband and son would honor that wish, what about other types of situations?  I believe that someone who is permanently in ill health or extreme pain but who is still in control of their mental faculties should be allowed to "let go" and die if they wish to do so; this would include people with dementia, Alzheimer's, or some other form of mental deterioration who still have fairly long periods of lucidity and rationality.  I think it would be awesome to be able to do it surrounded by one's family and friends in a social ritual, like birthdays, weddings, showers, baptisms and confirmations; the way it is done in certain movies such as "Logan's Run" is a good example (although we'd have to change the part about it being a form of population control, with everyone being forced to die at a certain age regardless of their health).

I know it probably sounds horrible to many people, but why can't we be as 'humane' to those of our own species as we are to other animals who are ill or in pain and never going to get better?  We have our pets and other animals "put to sleep" by a veterinarian rather than force them to live with a lingering illness or die a painful death.  Why shouldn't people be allowed to do the same, with society's blessing?  Now I'm definitely not saying it should be required of everyone (or anyone), and it should never be decided by someone other than the individual in question, but I do think it should be an option for each of us.  Since DNR ("Do Not Resuscitate") directives are legal, why not legalize LMD ("Let Me Die") directives as well?

Remember Terri Schiavo?  She lay in a nursing facility from 1990 to 2005, unable to move or speak, and the doctors said she was brain-dead, which meant she had no consciousness of anything or anyone.  Her husband and parents fought for years over whether she should be kept on life support or allowed to die, and the only ones who actually benefited from this were the doctors, hospitals and nursing facilities who received exorbitant sums of money for keeping her alive while the fighting went on (not to mention the lawyers). Her family only ended up with heartache that continues to this day.

What do YOU think about this subject?  Should it be socially acceptable for permanently ill or injured people to choose their time to die?  Why or why not?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Birthday Vacation!!

Yesterday was my birthday, and I'm celebrating by taking this week off!  I had to go to Clearlake last weekend to clear out Grandma's house, so I felt I owed myself a break, and this was the perfect time.

Here's what I've done so far:

Monday I met with two goth friends and went thrift store shopping!  We had a GREAT time, and found some awesome deals.  I ended up with a black Punisher t-shirt, a red lace micromini skirt, a pair of red/black/white knee socks with skulls-and-crossbones on them, and a black shirt that's hard to describe but looks awesome; these are the things I can wear right away.  I also found a black t-shirt with a cat head and "Me-ow!" on it, which I put in my closet in the "I-need-to-lose-5-to-10-pounds-first" section.  Hey, you gotta have something to work towards, right??  ;-)  And I spent less than $20 on all of it. 

Tuesday was my birthday, woo-HOOO!!  I started out by going shopping at my favorite grocery store, Trader Joe's, and dancing through the isles to the song "Witch Doctor".  Then on to Jiffy Lube, where I gave my van a birthday present of an oil/fluid change, plus a new headlight (that I didn't know needed changing).  After that, I headed for Kohl's, as I had COUPONS!!  I found an awesome pair of boots, originally $79.99, that were on sale for $25.  Using my $10-off b-day coupon and my 15% off coupon, I ended up paying only $13.86!!  And that came of my b-day money, so I actually got them for free!  Thanks, Mom!  :-)  From Martin, I got the DVD of the new Vin Diesel movie, Riddick.  I am totally addicted to Riddick, heheheh...  We'll be watching that later today.  And then we had cake!  Since Martin's birthday was Saturday and I was in Clearlake, we had the one cake for both of us (we usually do that, anyway).

Today is Wednesday.  My son is coming over to hang out around 12:30 while his girlfriend is in class; when she gets out, we'll all go out to dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant.  I'll probably work in the garden as well, since it's really nice today.

Not sure what I'll be doing Thursday and Friday, but I'm sure I'll think of something!  ;-)

What do you do to celebrate your birthday???

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Danse Macabre

"Danse Macabre ('Dance of Death') is an artistic genre of late-medieval allegory on the universality of death: no matter one's station in life, the Dance of Death unites all. The Danse Macabre consists of the dead or personified Death summoning representatives from all walks of life to dance along to the grave, typically with a pope, emperor, king, child, and laborer. They were produced to remind people of the fragility of their lives and how vain were the glories of earthly life. Its origins are postulated from illustrated sermon texts; the earliest recorded visual scheme was a now lost mural in the Holy Innocents Cemetery in Paris dating from 1424–25."  (Wikipedia)

One of the things I enjoy most about Renaissance Faires is the performing group, Northern California Danse Macabre.  They are very sneaky about their "entrances" and "exits", and don't wander about the faires in their Danse Macabre costumes.  Instead, they wear regular faire garb like everyone else most of the day, but before each of their performances, they slip one by one into one or more of the many encampments and hide in or behind the tent while they change into their DM costumes and makeup.  Then they suddenly appear, seemingly out of nowhere, do their parade/dance through the faire without speaking to anyone (performances consist of period music on period instruments, no vocals), and then disappear into another tent or tents to change back into "normal" faire garb.  Those who wish to join the group must find them in their hideout at one of the faires they attend in order to apply.  I REALLY wanted to join them, but unfortunately we had to stop attending faires before I was able to do so.  Below is a photo of them at one of the faires a few years ago, and here is a brief glimpse of their dancing and music (I found both on their website, linked above).


Here is a wonderful picture of the Danse Macabre that I found in an e-mail sent by the group awhile back.  Unfortunately, no information was given on when, where or by whom it was created, so I have no idea if it is a medieval original or a well-done modern recreation.  (UPDATE: Thanks to Little Gothic Horrors, here is a link!)  Underneath is a poem found on the group's "business cards" (also on their website).  Enjoy!

DM Card 1 back - right-click to save

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Being a Ghost

Have you ever felt like a ghost?  Like you were there but not there, sort of "out of phase" with everyone around you?  That's what I feel like today.  Whether I'm sitting at my desk or walking down the hall or stairs here at work, I have the sense that no one else really sees me, and that they would just walk right through me if they got close enough.  Even when someone talks to me, I have the sense that as soon as we stop speaking I'm not really quite visible to them anymore.

It's a very odd feeling to have.