It’s no secret that we are all going to die. That’s a fact stated by science and the impossibility that is time.
However, is it ok to talk about death when the person in question is alive? Yes! It should be part of our “planning for death” conversations with our families and loved ones, what should happen if they die. But sometimes, that conversation is so controversial and taboo that no one wants to talk about it or even think about it.
Why is that? Why is that we are so afraid of talking about something as natural as death? For some, it’s their own morbid truth that they just don’t want to face, coddled by the sham of the daily routine, which tricks us into thinking that we’ll be around forever.
For others, talking about death might be equated to “you’re wishing it” on the person whom you’re talking about or even on yourself. Even to think about it might mean that you’re wishing it. This is reinforced with statements such as: “I shouldn’t be thinking that way” or “I shouldn’t be talking that way.”
This also explains why we have so many euphemisms about dying and death (here’s a list of at least 101) such as to “meet the maker” or “bite the dust.” It seems that we just don’t want to sound too harsh by saying the word “death” or any conjugations of the verb “to die.”
But what if something happens, say an accident, and you or your loved one is caught between a rock and hard place. Say you’re bedridden and in need of medical assistance at least for a few hours a day. Would it be OK then to talk about death? Would it not be OK to say, “Well, it would have been easier if (I or they) should’ve just died than live like this…”
It sounds harsh. It registers beyond harsh, as if the person saying that is indeed wishing the death of the other person, or giving up on life. But in a very sad way, it is something that people think and sometimes say out loud when they are faced with difficult situations. Because, in the end, it is a little bit “easier” to drop dead than linger for years clinging to life, while having no quality of life, moving from hospital to hospital or nursing home to nursing home, only to die in the end from something like bedsores.
And sometimes, that’s exactly what a family member who provides home care for their loved one — a labor-intensive, emotionally and physically-draining job that I do not wish on any untrained person or family member, ever — are left thinking, trying to grasp what just happened to this healthy person who is now stuck in a bed.
While one deals with the fallout of this quick and sudden new reality, I can’t help but wonder how the patient is feeling and thinking. They were independent a few minutes ago and now they are not; their future might look bleak if their medical condition is something that’s irreversible.
Or, maybe they will get better, but will need help from a professional home care person for a few hours each day, at the very least, if a nursing home is not a better and viable alternative. So, in reality, they’re not independent anymore. It takes a lot of guts to admit that one needs help.