Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Drifting Off to Forever?

Trey Smith

One of the banes of growing old is that you get to experience the previous generation dying off. This past weekend I learned that the wife of my mother's oldest brother -- Aunt Jody -- had died. She was 86. She had been married to her beloved Gene -- my favorite uncle -- for 66 years. I, of course, called my Uncle Gene in Hot Springs, Arkansas to offer my condolences.

According to my uncle, Aunt Jody had spent the day engaged in one of her favorite activities: gardening. They shared a quiet dinner together and then sat up talking for a while. When he kissed her goodnight, she remarked what a splendid day it had been. When he awoke the next morning, he discovered that his beloved wife was dead.

Uncle Gene told me he takes great solace in that fact that she didn't suffer. As he remarked, dying in one's sleep is the way to go. I told him I certainly agreed with that sentiment, but the more I've thought about it, I have begun to wonder if people really do die in their sleep.

This question is motivated, in part, by a bit of information my brother had gleaned from Uncle Gene himself or another nearby relative. According to Sean's understanding, the paramedics believe there is some evidence to suggest that Aunt Jody tried to get out of bed, but was incapacitated before her feet hit the floor. If this is true, then she was awakened from her sleep by a heart attack or stroke and then died.

So, this possibility of events has led me to wonder if some people actually go to sleep and simply don't wake up OR if this idea is something of a myth. The only person I have witnessed "dying in their sleep" is my mother. But that doesn't really count. In my mother's last few days, she was so filled with morphine that consciousness was a medical impossibility! She died in a medically-induced sleep.

Anyhow, I don't know the answer to this query. All I do know is that it is a bit unsettling to think about. I've always liked the idea of gently drifting off to forever, if a person could be so lucky. But what if most people in that situation begin to drift and then are jolted awake before drifting again? Momentary terror before stepping off into the void...

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