This morning when I opened my e-mail I saw the following message sent by one of our congregation’s retired pastors about one of our elderly members who had gone into surgery about a week or so before our congregation’s recent camp-out. As one might figure, the news is not positive:
This is [name redacted], [name redacted] asked me to attend a meeting today at OSHU
to discuss [name redacted]’s situation. He had a Cardiac arrest this morning, they got
his heart restarted. He a stroke too and his left arm does not move. He has fluid build up in his lungs he is very anemic. There were three of his doctors at the meeting. He has severe lung damage and fluid retention in them[.] They thought it was unlikely he would recover.
All of us at the meeting didn’t think he should continue to have all
the medical treatments he is having to try to keep him alive. So [name redacted] [told] them what our view for him is.
[Name redacted] asked me to give you this up date and asked if you would let
our members know what his present situation is.
I spent some time in his room this afternoon and he did not open his
eyes, they had to give him medication to slow down his rapid & shallow breathing.
May God ease him out of this life as gently as possible.
John Donne, that famous poet, said that the death of any one person diminishes us all because we are not islands, as much as people might assume otherwise. Regrettably, I did not know the man whom this e-mail was about until the last few months all that well, but I can affirm that he was a joy to talk to if you enjoy history and love books and have an appreciation for stories and a light dash of sarcasm and humor. Fortunately, since all of these qualities certainly apply for me, I can say that at least for the last few months I have had a good time chatting with him quite frequently after services about books and our shared love of purchasing books. He was one of those people who did not tend to buy books online, so he had catalogs and filled them out manually and sent them in to get discount books delivered to his home in Washington. We would sit together after church and look at the catalogs and even have a good laugh at some of the books that were offered and talk about the good prices to be found and how it is that an obscure village in Connecticut would have a giant warehouse where the company responsible for the catalogs would send out many hundreds of books.
And although I did not know him well for that long, the dying gentleman and I had spoken enough to have inside jokes. For example, one of the catalogs from the obscure Connecticut bookseller we liked to look at had biographies on it, and included was a set of four biographies on Danish kings that hardly anyone cares about, which would lead the two of us to laugh about how many copies of those books the bookseller expected to sell and comment on how anyone who bought all four books would be the foremost expert on Danish history for a considerable distance around, all for the reasonable cost of some $12 per volume. How many cases exist where one can become one of the more foremost experts in a field for the modest price of less than $50? Who will share with me in the jokes of the love of an obscure bookseller with Danish royal biographies? My sense of humor is really obscure, and it tends to find common areas of equally obscure interests with other people, based on a combination of intellect and wit, and admittedly it is not always easy to find people who appreciate that sort of thing.
There is one other particularly poignant conversation that came to mind frequently that I feel it worthwhile to discuss. The gentleman who is the subject of this particular entry had talked with me at some length about his desire to participate in a healthy study that would investigate some of the genetic and/or epigenetic reasons why it was that his blood and that of a deceased relative of his proved to be so resistant to the ravages of AIDS, and he was unable to find a study that would investigate that matter further. And it seems that it never will happen, as time is rapidly running out for him in the aftermath of a stroke and a heart attack that followed surgery. It just so happens that the life of my own father was ended at far too young an age at 59 by first a stroke and then a heart attack that felled him as he was recovering from the stroke as well as a kidney infection. It would be hardly surprising for me if my own end came from that same combination personally, given the stress of my existence and my own inflammatory troubles which only increase the risk of such things when my family history is taken into account in which none of my father’s generation of his family survived their 50’s before dying of heart attacks, where other issues did not kill them even younger as was the case for two of my uncles. Suffice it to say that the sufferings of my friend are ones that are well-chosen to enter into my own reflections. May God ease him out of this life as gently as possible indeed.