Death Lurks Around the Corner

Filed in Living by on February 20, 2014 2 Comments

death manMost people don’t think about death very often. It’s not a very enjoyable or comfortable subject with which to entertain our thoughts. It often goes something like this: “I just realized: at some point I will simply be gone. I won’t be here. It will just be all over. Everything I do, everything I value and hold dear—my entire reality—will no longer be.” This can be terrifying.

Working at a hospital forces you to confront death, if not on a daily basis, at least fairly often. I think this is actually a good thing in a couple of respects. Death is a reality of our human existence, so we may as well reconcile ourselves to it. (We Type As like to be prepared for everything!) Also, when you see death often and close up, you really learn to appreciate this brief period of time that constitutes our lives. You relish it, by hugging and kissing your spouse and children, seeking out expanded relationships and new adventures, and using each day to fully experience all that life has to offer.

This past summer, I responded to what at first appeared to be a routine discharge of a patient. I grabbed a wheelchair and headed up to the patient’s room to take them out to the front of the hospital. As an experienced volunteer, I know that you never know quite what to expect when you enter a patient’s room, so I am always a little cautious. When I opened the door to the room, there were several family members inside, which is a little unusual.

Then it hit me. There was the unmistakable presence of death in this room.

The expressions on the family members’ faces were grave. Something awful, unspeakable, had happened, and the emotions were raw.

The patient who was being discharged was a woman who appeared to be in her late twenties. She was sobbing uncontrollably. Wiping away her tears, she said, “How am I going to go back home without him? Who will help take care of the kids? How will I tell the kids?” She appeared devastated. Her family tried to comfort her, but she was inconsolable.

After I discharged her, I asked at the nurses’ desk what the situation was. Apparently just the day before, her and her husband had been riding on a motorcycle he had just purchased, when he lost control of it, instantly killing himself and slightly injuring her. He had been flung from the motorcycle, his body mangled after hitting a guardrail.

This poor woman had witnessed her husband’s death in this cruel, grisly, first-hand manner, just the day prior.

Most deaths I come into contact with in the hospital are not this dramatic, but all are equally sad in their own way: the brave cancer patient who loses the fight; the person who dies on the operating table; the slow, but inevitable, downward slide of the extremely aged.

Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, death is waiting for each of us, lurking. So what to do about it?

The best way to respond to this reality is to really live! Live like you’ve never lived before! Chase that dream, immerse yourself in your family and friends, and love madly and without inhibition.

This is the only way to cheat death.

About the Author ()

TIM MCINTYRE retired in 2004 from his position as president of Applied Systems after facilitating a successful sale of the company. At only forty-six years old, he made the unusual decision to fully retire to pursue other interests and simply enjoy free time. As a hard-driving Type A personality, this turned out to be a significant challenge for the Notre Dame and University of Chicago-educated MBA, CPA, and Certified Cash Manager.

Comments (2)

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  1. Ed says:

    So well said, Tim.

  2. Sharon Marrin says:

    Wow, thanks for the wakeup call
    Great perspective!

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