Dying, Slowly

People do not understand dying at all. In our case, dying was very, very slow. Knowing you’re going to die is not the same thing as dying. However, if you have a specific diagnosis which gives you, according to the doctors, 12-15 months, and if you are a thoughtful human, you will begin to prepare for death. You will start to think about leaving final letters. What do you want to do with the time you have left? You will begin to husband your time very carefully. If you tell your friends, they will either deny your approaching death, ignore you, or try to have a final word with you. Your spouse will begin to grieve. This is not the idiotic nonsense that people called anticipatory grieving.

This is a necessary grieving for every loss that happens. Less than a month after the deadly diagnosis, we watched a Masterpiece Theatre detective story – we had been watching them for nearly 46 years. We both anticipated a long string of detective stories. Then, at the ending of the hour, we realized that what we watched was the cliffhanger for the next season. We both realized then that David’s death meant that we would not see the next episode. Although David felt well at this point, death went to a different layer, deeper, more entrenched in our unconscious.