And the Soul Wears Out the Breast…

Death can come in an instant, or it can be a long, lingering process as the soul fights the body for just one more day.

When my stepmother died it was nine days from beginning to end, and I didn’t actually believe she was going to die until the day she did. I’ve always thought it was a blessing that she went as quickly as she did, both for her and for my family. Watching a loved one suffer and deteriorate is ravaging to all.

If it’s a sudden death, though, you feel robbed. Robbed of time to say everything you want to say, robbed of one more look, one more smile, and you’d give your right arm for just one more hug. If you believe in G-d, as I do, it’s hard to understand why He would want anyone to linger. Perhaps He’s giving people time to resolve their lives, or perhaps sometimes He thinks the soul has more work to do (have you ever seen the movie Defending Your Life? Go rent it!), or perhaps He thinks someone has more of an impact to make.

That last can certainly be said for Randy Pausch, the computer science lecturer at Carnegie Mellon University whose “Last Lecture” became a huge sensation when it was posted on youtube. I’m sure Randy hoped he’d make an impact on those present, but I doubt he could foresee that his speech would be viewed nearly 4,000,000 times, not to mention the news coverage and clips millions of others were lucky enough to see.

So, yeah, he definitely had more of an impact to make.

Job well done, Randy, but now you can rest.

Thank you for sharing, Randy.


One Response to “And the Soul Wears Out the Breast…”

  1. copyeditorsdesk Says:

    Whether a person can work through various life issues in the weeks or months of waning life depends on how the people around her or him behave, and the prevailing societal attitudes toward terminal illness. When my mother died, it was not the custom to tell patients they were dying. Her doctor told my father and me not to let her know she had terminal cancer for which nothing could be done. That made it effectively impossible to talk with her about anything other than trivialities. By the time she must have realized what was happening, she was too far out of it to talk with anyone or do anything.

    Times have changed. A few years ago a dear friend died of ovarian cancer. Because she was told the diagnosis, she was able to take charge of her illness, to get herself into an experimental Taxol program (the drug was new then), and to extract a year or so of life beyond what her doctors expected. Interestingly, too, the quality of life that she managed to gain was fairly high. Although she of course suffered, it was nothing like what I was told chemotherapy would do to you. Most of her final year was very much worth living. She wrote a book about it, which I edited. Unfortunately her daughter, who was her literary executor, was so grieved she would not allow the book to go out to publishers. Too bad…she had a lot to say, much of it pretty inspiring.

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