Mar 16, 2011

Guide to Dying

[Excerpt from The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide]

There was no way to describe the waiting for death. Pre-mortal? 'Dying' was not good enough. It was both too broad and too precise. For a start we are all dying, all our lives, from the moment of birth. And we were dying most specifically when we were laid on our beds entubed, respirated, catheterised, in the final days or weeks when the body began to shut down for good and the relatives gathered around. But what about now? What word would describe my exact condition, active and alert, feeling well for the most part, yet facing the unambiguous end of life within months?

The irony of this gripped me tightly, though yet again 'irony' was such a feeble, inadequate, contemptible word. There had to be something else, but my great collection of dictionaries and thesauruses, my passionate regard for words in any context, or none at all, my logophilia, my love of neologisms, of cryptic crosswords and arcane word books, failed me on this one. Me, of all people....

If it existed, I couldn't find the word to capture the process when dying actually felt like living, when decay, corruption and disease focused one so smartly and keenly it was as if you were living every day left to you balanced on the blade of a carving knife.

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