When does a person begin to die? The Bob Dylan definition works as well as any: “He not busy being born is busy dying.” (Maybe I’ve finally found my vanity license plate: BZBNGBRN.) But after watching both my parents die in the last three years, I’d say the real turn toward home starts when you’re no longer in control of your own forward movement. If you’re able to push yourself in a wheelchair, you’re still swinging. But once you’ve become cargo for someone else to move from place to place, I’d say your quality of life has dipped into the red zone. My mother, who had Parkinson’s and eventually died of pancreatic cancer (officially, anyway), was more or less inert for the last seven years of her life. She never complained about this, but once she reached the point where it was difficult to hold her head up and she could no longer feed herself, I started actively hoping for this cup to pass. I didn’t wish her dead, but I wished her something better, and there just wasn’t any alternative. My dad was pretty shaky at the end, too, but the fact he went from ambulatory-with-cane to his funeral mass in just under two weeks? This was a blessing.
Your mileage may vary. I’m just thinking out loud here.
In the newspaper business, when a prominent person develops a bad cough, so to speak, we prepare an obituary. Some people are so prominent we have one in the drawer from the get-go; President Clinton’s is waiting in a file somewhere at the New York Times, and President Reagan’s was, too. But Reagan’s has been regularly polished for at least a decade. The reaper-is-nigh advisories have been going out for years, only to be waved off later. This was a very, very long decline. Even when my mom’s body had utterly failed her, her mind remained sharp. Reagan’s family lost both years ago.
So, for his family, I have all the sympathy in the world. I’m glad it’s over for them. I know exactly how they feel.
As for Reagan Himself, let’s leave that for another day, or the comments. OK, one quick note: This was the headline on my News/Free Press today:
REAGAN DIES, BROUGHT HOPE BACK TO AMERICA.
Oh, that liberal media.