I’m familiar with death. I’ve never tasted its venom or glimpsed its twisted face, but I’ve seen it work. I’ve seen it swoop by and touch someone. I’ve seen it standing in the corner, grinning beneath its tattered hood as my family tries to understand what is happening. But, I have only come to know this brute with time. It wasn’t until later, long after death has claimed another victim, and the tear stains had since long dried on my pillow case, was understanding a possibility.
Death always begets the most beautifully atrocious feelings. Heartache infects your body, constricting your motions and tying your limbs still. Sorrow blinds you, clouding whatever thoughts you manage to construct with a dark haze. Phantom pains stab deep into you, lacerate your body and hollow it out. However, as the days dissolve and the nights fade into another foggy morning, these ugly pains and notions lessen. In time, you’re able to slowly grip these emotions, tear them away from your bones, bind them and stow them away somewhere inside the murkiest parts of your heart.
In November of 2012 my father was pushed into the cold embrace of death. He wasn’t taken by the decades of cigarette smoke that stained his lungs, nor was he taken by a random traffic accident. Cancer strangled his body, and ravaged his organs until it finally overcame him. And as he lay in bed, broke and convulsing, his family gathered around him and “pulled-the-plug” on the machine pumping air into lungs. In a few hours’ time he suffocated, as his lungs were barely functioning.
His death certificate reads that he died of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. And yet, complications of this horrendous illness lead to his death. However, while this illness and complications were tearing through his body we, his family, reached unanimous decision: withdraw the life sustaining treatment that kept his heart, lungs and brain functioning and end his existence.
According to the Veterans Administration, my father’s Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was ultimately traceable to the use of something the United States government still calls a “tactical herbicide”. Generally, this herbicide is known by the snappy name; Agent Orange.
Continue the story here, with the next chapter “And So My Faith Began to Wither”