Category: Musings


On Death and Dying

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I am not sure why I have long been, I guess some would say, obsessed with the topic of death.

I think it stems from two sources. I used to be a member of, what I now call, the Cult of Jehovah, aka the Jehovah’s Witness religion. JW’s are focused big-time on the End of the World. By the age of 8, I probably knew more about Armageddon than I knew about the rules of baseball. I think they still are. Focused on the end time. I imagine Donald Trump must be wet dream for them. Maybe The Donald has been enshrined as the Beast of Revelation … wearing his white baseball cap emblazoned with 666 in sold gold lettering.

You get the point. I grew in an enviroment where I anticipated doom, gloom, and death. In fact, I was ready to give up my life for the cause.

So, when I came across Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s “On Death and Dying” it was a revelation —  not THE revelation — but nonetheless a significant piece of my education about death.

The second reason is by far the more significant. A few months back my Primary Care Physician and I were having some kind of philosophical discussion about life. He put his right hand on my left shoulder. Looked me in my eyes. And, said, “Lyle. You know. We all die.” I laughed. For I knew that just a few years ago he had had a massive heart attack and had change his life and, especially, work dramatically. He now makes his family and family travel a priority.

I too, nearly died, August 21, 2010. When I HIT THE WALL.

People say to me, “You are lucky to be alive!” I know that luck had little to do with it.

READ MY NEXT POST to see why I say that.







Suicide Is Painless … Except When It Isn’t

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I still remember the strangeness of listening to the theme from M*A*S*H (the movie) in the darkness of the huge cinema on Calgary’s 16th Avenue. It was the Summer of 1970 and I must have watched it with my ex-wife but I don’t remember her presence. I sat, as if alone, in the dark struck by the strangeness of the opening scenes. The choppers dropping their loads of battered, bloody bodies; all overlain with the hauntingly beautiful but strange contradiction of the theme song.

It was my first exposure to “gallows humour”, the absolutely dark, dismal, strange, black humour that has come to mark the conversations of surgeons in TV series like “ER”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, and “Saving Hope”. Gallows Humour is used to “distance” the medical professional from his/her patient, in an attempt to be objective. I suppose if they weren’t objective the might feel too much, and might go crazy, or worse yet … well … er … attempt to kill themselves.”

The theme song from M*A*S*H, Suicide Is Painless, is a fitting start to this post. I have recently thought a lot about “self murder” given the death of Robin Williams. I knew it would happen. I don’t mind the tributes for he was a comic genuis. Like Joan Rivers he was able to tranform his pain into humour — in itself a kind of visit to the dark side.

But, I resent the attempts of what I call Rag Mags, you know them, to captilize on Robin’s death by endlessly speculating about the “secrets of his last hours” or “he could have been saved.” BULL SHIT!

No one, sometimes even the person who attempts suicide, knows what goes through the mind of the attempter of self murder. No one!

The family, the doctors, the psychologists, the psychiatrists, the other sucidology experts can speculate as to the causes and what was going through the mind of the person attempting (and often suceeding) suicide. But it is just speculation and OFTEN a very painful, emotionally exhausting search for answers that just are not available and will never, ever be available.

Yet why the hell am I writing this post about a subject that many simply don’t want to talk about?

A good god damn question.

Because I seem to be compelled to talk about the S-word, Suicide. Because, you see, I have attempted to kill myself no less than SIX times.

Yes, folks, countem SIX.

Obviously I never succeeded. But, it wasn’t for lack of trying. I have been often asked, “Were you serious?”

To which question I often reply, “Yes. I was deadly serious.”

Even my first attempt, which is marked by the hesitation scars of an attempt to slash my left wrist, was deadly serious. And, subsequent attempts were increasingly deadly.

Who is to blame?

I don’t like to play the blame game. I try to think about who is responsible. I am going to say something that some might find provocative.

The person who is most responsible is the person who attempts and/or suceeds at sucide.

In my next post, I will tell you why I think that.