Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Life and Death is the Great Matter

It's been almost a week since I posted.  I had a post almost ready to go out last Sunday, but when I got to  church Ray came over and told me Scott Robinson died Saturday night of a massive heart attack.  He was 47 and not known to have heart disease. 

Scott was a special friend to us for many years, used to meditate with us, was often in our house for gatherings.  He was bipolar, and it was basically disabling.  One of my first thoughts was that I was glad it wasn't suicide, that I couldn't have stood that. I think you always feel at a death, even a natural death, that you could have, should have, done more for that person. I don't think Scott knew how much he meant to me.  I should have told him he was like a kid to me, that I cared deeply for him.
Scott and Ray
There's another kind of thing that swept in on me with tsunami force Sunday, which was a down day for me anyway, so I was vulnerable:  an intimate understanding of my own fragility.  It comes back to me as I write.  When I close my eyes I can see my stomach, pancreas, all my soft internal organs, my fragile ribs, my aging colon, my swiss-cheese spine.  One fall, one cough from someone with a deadly antibiotic-resistant bug, one kid opens up with a gun in the theater and you're dead.  Gone.  Forever.  You didn't get to plan or say goodbye.  And you will very soon be forgotten by all but a very few.  If you want to know, Buddhism is not consoling me about this.  Obviously I am not enlightened.
Scott's cover photo on Facebook
Because of this intimate sense of fragility, I wore a protective mask yesterday in the crowded waiting room at the James for my long-scheduled appointment with a dermatologist.  She specializes in us transplant people, who are much more likely than you to get aggressive skin cancer.  We are supposed to be inspected top to toes (literally) every year, but she wants me to come every six months because my brother died of melanoma.  I did not have the disassociation I was afraid I might have during all this, sometimes do have with medical exams.  This wasn't sexually invasive like a cystoscopy or colonoscopy.  I was engaged during the long, tedious affair of the nurse and her telling me what I already knew about prevention; but I wasn't emotionally engaged; I was thinking.
Scott and BartholomeOw
What I kept thinking was the spectacular amounts of time, money and trouble spent on keeping me alive these last few years.  A friend underwent major surgery to give me one of her kidneys.  Well over $200,000 was spent on that surgery, most of it by insurance, including Medicare, and it costs thousands of dollars every month for the horrible immune-suppressive drugs that inflame my stomach but keep me from rejecting the kidney and lay me open to all these kinds of cancer.  You can get cancer in the whites of your eyes, in your mouth and throat or genitals. I'm supposed to schedule a Pap smear, too.  That's a different doctor.  This doctor cut off a pink thing on my arm that I thought was recent scar tissue and is having it biopsied. It stings.

I want to convey the weirdness of understanding that all this money is spent on me while people die or go blind or are crippled for want of inexpensive medical care.  It is not fair or right.  It's an accident of karma that I was born into a thrifty family in white middle-class in America in a time when you earned pensions as you worked, and ended up with terrific health insurance.

But weirder that I don't deserve it, and still worse that I bitch about all the stuff I have to do just to stay alive.  Taking care of myself takes all my time!  At this very moment I should have already done my chi gong and meditated and should be eating Cream of Wheat and taking the rest of my morning pills, and I resent that schedule calling me.  I work on not resenting how my bipolar disorder took on new life after the surgery, how I am depressed every other day now, sometimes immobilized by it and given to drifting suicidal fantasies, and nobody can come up with a medication that's any help.  It's bad.  I feel guilty that I'm not suffused with joy.  I think I should be happy all the time for every extra day I've been given. 

And I feel guilty because I haven't accomplished anything much, either.  I ask, What can I possibly do to make it worth while that Laurie Brown gave me one of her kidneys?  That I am here and Scott is dead.   My central gift is seeing, feeling, expressing my experience.  Maybe that's all I have to give, and I have this blog, which is the easy way to give it.  So here it is.  And here is something Scott posted once.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful gift you share, Jeanne. I love the pictures of Scott and the Legacy poster as well. I still haven't wrapped my head around Scott's passing. I keep remembering moments with him... those moments where he said something sorta funny or weird... like he used to... but I can't remember specifics. It's all a blur.

    Thanks for sharing the grief we're all feeling.