My mother naps, wrapped in a hammock in Mexico. She is alive and well, but here, she seems to sleep eternally.
The other day I watched the film Amour, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and best foreign film at the Oscars this year. It shed light on the final stages of life, which I think few people dwell on until they find themselves there, and then they haven’t got a choice. That’s the scariest thing – getting to a place where you no longer have a say… where you can’t assert your identity. What does it feel like to lose control over your own existence?
I listened to a really interesting podcast this week by Radiolab called “The Bitter End” which wrestled with this question. They found that there’s a surprising gap between what doctors will do for us when death is near, and what doctors want done for themselves. While most of us would say: save my life at any cost, doctors know the invasiveness of many life-prolonging interventions. The majority opt for an earlier death soothed by painkillers, rather than a few extra months with a breathing tube. A study done in 1996 found that TV medical dramas depict CPR as having a survival rate of 75%, but I was stunned to learn that in reality, it’s only 8%! And of that, only 3% return to a normal quality of life. No wonder our perception is skewed.
In the end, all living things share the same inescapable fate. I guess doctors think about that more than most. To me, the thought is simultaneously comforting and terrifying – the idea that we’re all in it together, and yet
… but what can you do?