life, prosetry

On The Cusp

No bright light, no tunnel, no montage of childhood memories or “best bits”, no soundtrack, no loved ones, no dead relatives, no angels, no God. Just blood and guts and chemical reactions and la chamade and then             .

A freight train gradually slowing down, the application of the brakes, finally grinding to a total halt after a couple of miles. Careering forward towards that stop with no way to stop the stopping.

No thoughts. Inability to think about anything. Only able to feel your body in its entirety, the weight of it, its structure, how you [have always] live[d] inside of it. Heartbeats and skin and bones and muscle and fat and blood moving. You feel exactly where your organs are housed: they’ve always worked so hard without you asking them to and now they are slowly, slowly shutting down (over 1 minute? 10 hours? 2 days? you will never know and it doesn’t matter because time isn’t matter so it doesn’t die).

No control. You cannot think, so you cannot will your body to fix itself or will it to speed up the process. No cerebral functioning, at all, only corporeal dysfunctioning.

Feeling your body in a way that you have never felt it before. Such heaviness in your limbs. Your spine weighs a tonne. Your muscle melts off of you like ice-cream and then sets around you like concrete. Weight weight weight, the weight of your matter, and gravity keeping you tied down in whatever position you decided was your last, stuck in that way, feeling your body dissolve, feeling yourself falling off your bones. Unable to open your eyes. No thought to even try.

No sound, no background noises, no internal monologue, no voices, just nothingness, a vacuum, a black hole located in your centre, where your sternum ends, right between your floating ribs. No fight, no struggle, just being: you are in your body and it is slowing down, bit by bit, over an incomprehensible period of time, until it stops completely.

The brain does not go last, as we have been led to believe. The brain goes first. You cannot think, you cannot do. You just be until you stop [being]. The heart goes last. Dying is not peaceful or scary or wild or magical or painful. It just is. Like you just are and one day, you won’t be.

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6 thoughts on “On The Cusp

  1. This rings so true. I sat in an Emergency Room, my father on the bed, “unresponsive”. Dementia had taken most of him, bit by bit, over seven years. Now, the last bit had gone. There was no one present in that bed, just a heart slowly, fitfully surrendering according to the green lines on the monitor until the tone announced before the doctor pronounced.

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  2. beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. dying brings us back to the physicality at the bottom of everything we are. it’s scary to witness. I don’t know if it’s scary to go through. we won’t know until we don’t know.
    I felt this very deeply, being reminded of my beloved grandmother’s dying, after years of dementia, just like the previous commenter. she wasn’t there anymore. but I held onto her as though she was, singing to her, looking into her unseeing eyes, showing her scenes of hiking mountains that she always loved. I know it was more for me than for her, but if there was anything at all of her left, I wanted her to go through the going with that love.

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    • Oh Judith, I’m so sorry about your grandmother. Dementia is such a cruel and heartbreaking illness. I hope you find some comfort in knowing that you did everything you could to make her feel loved and well looked after. Thank you for reading and sharing your experience xx

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  3. You also have a way of saying so much with so little, which in of itself is incredibly hard to do. You convey here the loss and slippage quite heartbreakingly but with such a force of emotion we are not mere readers. Dementia is on the rise and we should all be imploring the Gov to give a damn because we’re going to be f**ked otherwise. You know how to write about things that matter, be they small or large, you have that uncanny finger on the pulse my lass.

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