The second time my valentine fell out of its natural cadence I was in a cardiac care unit, which is exactly where you want to be when your heart fails. If it weren’t for the erratic beeping and alarms from the telemetry, it would have been more of a peaceful threshold experience, one that would beckon me back throughout the rest of my life, that long and sustained tone of my heart’s inactivity notwithstanding.
It’s not unusual to hear of the paradox of calm during what most feel is horrible in the throes of dying, but it’s rare. I’m certain fear is that volume control, the potentiometer that amplifies the noise of regret in the agonal phase and compounds the pain of loss or even its potential. And that, for many, obscures the idea that dying is the cusp of the most remarkable experience one could ever have alive.
I’ve come to understand this better this week in the company of two people, one who is dying, and one who has died. No seances involved on the latter, they were revived after an excruciating traumatic accident. The former discovered not too long ago that the number of their remaining days was dramatically lower than anyone could comfortably fathom. Just the thought of that has probably made you uncomfortable. We don’t want to talk about it, that eight-hundred pound grim reaper, and we go on as if the inevitable was not. Ever.
Spring is busting out in buds and weeds and grass and pollen on the other side of my window, undeterred, like every other season, inevitable in its momentum into another cycle. There is comfort in this, in its predictability and yet it’s amusing to hear surprise in voices that declare how great the weather has been or how beautiful the blossoms are. We want so badly, in some cases so desperately, for living to be the same, so much to have invented plans that range from salvation to cryogenics, though still, after all the time and all the decay, it all remains a mystery.
There is no certainty for the uncertainty avoiders.
In a few moments I’ll be back on my mountain bike riding a path upon which I really have no business. The trail exceeds my bike’s technical capacities, not to mention any wit’s worth of common sense, but there’s this crest beyond which is a descent that obliterates any reasonable consideration of one’s well being and every time I survive it I stand on my pedals and coast the trail beyond and feel the peace in between the beats of my heart, because, for me, that’s what it felt like to die.