“Get busy living, or get busy dying”

An extraordinarily simple and apt philosophy of life. Thank you for that one, Stephen King. I greatly appreciate it.

Recently I’ve traded some e-mails with a friend of mine (and, of course, the name is inconsequential for a blog entry, so don’t ask) on the subject of my grandfather and how my family and I are dealing with the end of his life. Then the statement of how sad it must be for me to be losing him and the idea that we are all dying came up… and I had to respond.

I can’t speak for my family — they’re all individuals and have their own thoughts, but I can speak for me.

I’m going to excerpt the message here (along with some edits — you don’t need to know all of the items I mentioned in the message) to better explain myself here.

When Scott’s sister, Dee-Ann, died in 2002, I questioned the justice of a universe that would strike an 18-year-old down in the prime of her life. Questioning authority is something I do well, so questioning the universe and any divinity out there is something that came naturally.

I’ve come to the conclusion that death itself, and its role as a part of life, is not sad.

The circumstances and the events surrounding it may be sad, but death itself is not. I am not sad about my grandfather’s eventual passing. I am sad about some of the circumstances surrounding it, but I’m not sad or upset that he’s dying.

The school of thought that we are all dying, even from the point where we are born, is one I can’t quite agree with. It’s a rather fatalistic and pessimistic view of the world and life to state that we are all dying, and I believe that sort of view sabotages our ability to live. If there is anything I do find sad, it’s the idea that the living don’t “get busy living” and are focused on dying.

Think about it: If we are all dying, then that negates the fact that we should be living. And if we aren’t living, then exactly why do we bother going on? What sort of un-death does it become? I think it becomes a basic contemptuous tolerance of life and the act of living if we are all seen as dying.

If we are all dying, now that would be sad. Damn sad. And depressing. I simply cannot accept the idea that we are all dying as we live.

Viewing death as the logical end of life, as part of life and not its antithesis, allows one to better experience the act of living rather than dwelling on our ends. I prefer to be writing and telling my story than focusing on the end. The end will write itself and I have little control over that. But I can actually control what leads up to the end — and I’m going to.

So, I, for one, am going to live while I’m alive. I’m not interested in dying while I’m living. There will be enough time for death when I reach my end.

“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Not much of a change…

Well, other than the fact that my grandfather is now asking for more specific things (chili con carne and cheeseburgers, to be precise). He’s also discovered the nurses will get him ice cream almost any time he wants it.

I would be concerned but, let’s be honest, he’s terminal. If he wanted to sit in a vat of chocolate ice cream while smoking ten cigarettes and chowing down on a Wendy’s Classic Triple with Cheese… well, that would be weird, but no one is going to stop him.

What drives me nuts is that there is a mysterious chart somewhere that shows what his current condition is… and I have no idea where it is residing. A psychiatrist talked with my mother over the weekend and told her what the treatment options (or lack thereof) are due to his current physical condition.

But, really, do we have a clear view of what his physical condition is? No, not really. That’s the biggest issue at hand for me. We’ll have to see what happens…