Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bell Bottom Blues


Chapter 19 or 20 (Death Becomes Me)

Bell bottom blues, you made me cry
I don’t want to lose this feeling
And if I could choose a place to die
It would be in your arms

Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?
Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?
I’d gladly do it because

I don’t wanna fade away...
Give me one more day, please!
I don’t wannna sail away...
In your heart I want to stay!

It’s all good, and it’s all right
The way that you treat me baby
Once I was strong but I lost the fight
You won’t find a better loser

I don’t wanna fade away...
Give me one more day, please.
I don’t wannna sail away...
In your heart I want to stay.

I don’t want to sail away...
Give me one more day, please!
I don’t want to fade away...
In your heart I want to stay!

Bell bottom blues, don’t say goodbye
I’m sure we’re gonna meet again
And if we do, don’t you be surprised
If you find me in our blue Heaven

I don’t wanna sail away...
Give me one more day, please.
I don’t wanna fade away...
In your heart I want to stay.

I don’t wanna fade away...
Give me one more day please!
I don’t wanna sail away...
In your heart I long to stay...

Bell Bottom Blues

There he lay, a shadow of his former self. An IV was connected to his arm, and a catheter protruded from under the covers of his hospital bed.
He had decided to die at home, if at all possible, so his doctor kindly ordered him the hospital bed and some men set it up in the living room.

Hospice visiting nurses arrived every day to check his vitals, lungs, heart and any problems they could alleve or fix.
His loving wife Patti did all she could to make him comfortable, bless her heart and his daughters helped out when they could.

For months he had wasted away, and for weeks he lay in his hospital bed, still fighting, still intent on conquering this challenge...to live.
He could barely say a few words without going into a seizure, he could not read or write without also seizing up and blacking out.
He could not walk without assistance which is why he had a catheter these last few weeks.

After hospice care was started a nurse asked if he wanted to sign a form stating he didn't want to be revived if he died. After much prayer and meditation he decided to sign a revised form: no super human efforts to be revived. That was as far as he would go, because he believed that life is precious, a gift from God.

Yes, here Ben lay, unconcious, having blacked out for no apparent reason other than...he was fading away...dying.

I heard Patti shout my name, and then everything went black. I felt warm in a seductive darkness that beckoned me to let go and surrender.
It would be so nice to rest, I thought. To go to sleep and dream...

Where's Patti? Where's my daughters? Where am I? There was no sense of time, here.
As if I was suspended in...nothing. I could see no light, but I felt good, and there was no pain. No pain! When was the last time I was without pain? I wondered.
I couldn't recall. I felt so...alive but it made no sense to me.
This is weird, I thought.

And still, the darkness, which seemed to me to be alive, beckoned me to let go.
I'm dying, I thought. For weeks I knew I was dying, but I didn't really believe it.
Afterall, I had survived so much, thanks to God.
I had survived a four inch tumor on my pancreas, which had disappeared after showing up on x-rays and CT scans.
That sure baffled all the docs, except for my doc. Everyone started callin' me the miracle man.
Shingles three times, the first was the worst, but I survived. Weight loss, more times than I can count.
I went years with virtually no immune system! With CD4 counts in the single digits.

Nurses and docs started lookin' at me differently. When asked what I did, I gave all the credit to God.
All I did was choose to live. Sometimes that wasn't easy. Sometimes I wanted to just give up and let go. But I couldn't. It wasn't in me to give up.

I sensed a voice but it wasn't a voice, it was more like thoughts, but hey weren't mine.
"Sleep...let go...dream. You have fought the good fight. You deserve to rest," the thoughts seemed to say. It was so tempting. What do I do? I wondered. What should I do?
I knew, without a doubt in my mind, that if I succumbed, I would surely die. This is really death I'm hearing, I thought, struggling to clear my mind.

Everything at once entered my very being. All that I was and all that I am. My entire life, the good, bad and ugly. Every waking and sleeping moment. Every good and evil thing I had done or thought about.
I cringed at the evil and even the "good" made me ashamed at times. I was..naked.

Oh God! I cried. I'm so sorry! Immediately I felt Love embrace me, my sins removed, but the darkness remained.
What should I do?I asked. But there was no answer.
The darkness became still darker. I didn't think that was possible, but it did.
I knew, somehow, that meant something, without knowing how. I knew many things at that timeless moment without knowing how.

It's like, a massive amount of knowledge had downloaded or entered not just my mind, but my entire being...actually, more like seeds. I had a vague sense what they were but not their full potential. I tried to understand what this meant, but I felt an urgency within. I had to choose, life or death, now!

I wanna live! I thought, almost involuntarily. The darkness closed in, trying to enter me, and it hurt! All sorts of pain flashed within me. I could barely think as I assumed a fetal position, trying not to black out. This is killin' me, I thought, clenching my remaining teeth.

But it's already black, I thought, tryin' to smile. So I can't black out.
The darkness was no longer warm and comforting and it didn't appreciate my attempt at humor. It seemed malevolent now, and I am certain I could hear a howl of despair and rage as it attacked me.

I'm too weak to fight this, I thought, trying to remain concious in this strange place. This is too much pain! I cried to God. Help me, Lord!
But there was no reply.

The darkness was succeeding. I could feel it tearing at my flesh, yearning for my soul. A flash of fear entered my mind and a deep sense of despair.
I can't...I can't, I thought.
Something that had entered me earlier...one of those seeds sprouted. I don't know why but it seemed as if it was more important than anything for me to know this seed, now.

Again, I struggled to clear my mind as the darkness assailed me. I gotta...focus, I thought. What is that? I gotta know! Leave me alone! I screamed, and the fear was replaced by anger. I punched and kicked at the darkness but it only constricted me further, laughing at my feeble efforts.

Well, that don't work, I thought, wryly. Oh yeah, the seed, I thought. Maybe it will help me fight. I tried to focus again, but the darkness made a loud scream that hurt my ears and scrambled my thoughts.
I winced, praying for God to make it stop. But I knew at that moment, only I could make it stop.

The seed grew, and it was tryin' to tell me somethin'. Somethin' I had to know!
This is more important, I thought, redoubling my efforts to resist the darkness.
I...will...not...surrender! Period!
The seed was now growing...nonstop. I recognized it, but I didn't know, yet.
What? Pur... I had to hurry! I was bein' overwhelmed!

Damn it! You are really pissin' me off! I thought. Then it hit me...the seed.
I knew. Purpose! I had a new purpose! I felt it, and it energized me!
The darkness shattered as I opened my eyes.

"Hi," I said weakly, tears flowing from my eyes. Patti's eyes were red, and tears flowed from them.

"I thought I lost you," Patti said, hugging me tight.

"It's all right," I said, feeling no seizure coming. "I'm not goin' to die anytime soon," I whispered.

Patti held me tighter and we both cried. My life was renewed and I had a purpose. But what is my purpose? I wondered. I knew I would know after it was full grown.
For now, my purpose is to live! I knew.

18 comments:

Joan of Argghh! said...

Damn, Ben.

Wow.

Fine piece of writing.

I've heard that same voice, a time or two. And hated that same darkness.
I bet I'm not the only one of your readers who has.

julie said...

Welcome back to the land of the living, Ben. As always, I'm so, so glad that you're able to tell us this tale.

Robin Starfish said...

Right out there on the edge looking into the abyss, Ben. It takes a True Warrior to bring back a report like that from the front lines.

That seed is packed, isn't it?

On a syncoonistic note, one of the MZ posts in queue is named 'Bell Bottom Blues', and seeds are lined up for tomorrow. What are the chances?

100%

walt said...

Your "Dark Night" was not exactly a metaphor, was it? I hope and pray that "was" is the proper tense!

And in the middle of it, you're thinking "This is weird." Ha! I know how that goes: in my little episode last July, I said to the doc, "This is almost enough to make me lose my sense of humor," but no one got the joke.

I'd like to hear more about "purpose," if it's not too personal. I've spent a lot of time on that concept.

Dire straits, Ben -- but great to read a post from you!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Joan!
Thanks! I would definitely like to hear of your experiences with that darkness.
Surprisingly, I thought it would be more difficult to write about.

Not that it was easy, but the hardest part for me was finding the right words.
When I stopped thinking about it so much it just flowed, of course.

I'm glad to say death ain't happy with me, as I'm sure it ain't with you, Walt, and I'm positive all of us, to an extent. :^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks, Julie!
Today is much brighter than usual for me! :^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi DoJo!

"That seed is packed, isn't it?"
You gno it! And it's still growin'!

Haha! I love that synchoonicity!
Hey that's a great name for a song!
:^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Walt!
Thanks! My sentiments exactly!

Aye, it's a different type of reality, that's for sure.

I can guarantee that you'll read more about purpose, and motivation n' stuff. Hell, I can hardly wait myself. :^)

Dire Straits or dieor straights?
Ha!

mushroom said...

I just marvel at this, Ben, at the incredible strength that purpose gives. It's a mighty narrative.

Ricky Raccoon said...

What Mushroom said….and Dr. Victor Frankl…if you have a “why” you’ll find a “how”.
And what everybody else said above :-)
Great “choice”, Ben. The final freedom. No wonder you smiled. We’re all the better for it.

kaffepaus said...

Ben,

I'm almost speechless...

Started to read this and first I thought that someone else had written it, and it was, you know... game over. I don't know you personally, only lightly through OC you know, but I got really scared...

So, you kind of got in a argue with old death, did you. Glad you won that little quarrel!

/Johan

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Mushroom!
Thanks! I know you know about purpose! Your blog is packed with purpose!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"...if you have a “why” you’ll find a “how”."

Hi Rick!
That's pretty profound, man! I wonder if that works in reverse?
One of the first questions I remember askin' about practically everything was "why come?"

My Grandpa would say, "how come."

And I said, "uhuh." :^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Johan!
I'm sorry about that. It wasn't intentional. I just figured that I haven't wrote anything in thid person narrative yet, so I gave it a shot.

I much prefer writing first person as I see it, though.

Death sure doesn't have a sense of humor. :^)

Joan of Argghh! said...

Death sure doesn't have a sense of humor.

Funny. And true! They don't call him the Grim Reaper for nothing!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Joan, ha ha ha!
Good one! I just pictured death on that old show Hee Haw:

Buck Owens: "I'm a pickin'..."

"............." Death is silent.

Buck Owens: "Oookayyy...And death is Grimmin'!"

Is grimmin' a word? :^)

jwm said...

Ben:
I'll second Joan. Superb piece of writing. I just caught this post yesterday. I've been sending out a prayer or three in your direction. Tell Grimm FOAD. We need you more than he does.

John M

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi John!
I know you know a thing or two about death. I'm sure glad you are with us too!
Thanks a million for the prayers, my friend!

FOAD to Death? LOL! I love the irony! :^)