“If I Die Before I Wake”
The topic of bedtime... that idea is quite foreign to me today. I haven’t slept for a decent length of time in ages. I have heard the military has a new drug to keep us awake for days sans the unpleasant side effects of amphetamines. It is so sad, I’m just OOB at this very moment. During this phase of not sleeping well I feel that I, maybe, somehow, have lost 50 or so IQ points. Today I crave that reduction in my Level of Consciousness where I don’t care about a thing unless I have something school-related in the morning to memorize. It can differ.
I also think of the wonderful classy children’s books my grandmother would buy for me at Jacobson’s and read to me like she actually enjoyed it. She’d discard them or sadly donate to the church rummage sale after reading them a few times. I just can’t find these titles today. Mind-warping Seuss books, bizarre and darling; a noisy mammoth machine that stretched like it was spilled throughout this poor doggie’s house. It made annoying noises all night and kept the poor fuzzy guy up all night. He never knew what the thing did or how to shut it off. Every night he’d be rudely awakened, grab a candlestick, and venture among the potbellied flop only to roll his eyes at it. And the only potty in the whole city was about ten miles away and four miles up to climb. And when you got there, someone was always straining in it. Or, this adorable Marvin K. Mooney, he wanted to stay and visit but some snobby hand told him he ‘Must go NOW!’ And that was the entirety of the book. Or the sheep and country bumpkin who lived on a farm that made muffins. Too many muffins! It wouldn’t stop making muffins, and they filled up the sky — not even very good to eat!
Lovely warm memories. How can anyone dare say anything bad about that woman? She is still the irreverent witty 86 year old, the ultimate socialite, really something. Can charm the most twisted person out of their skin, and can see something good in both Timothy McVeigh (poor military boy) and Osama Bin Ladin (handsome). And she always had the correct answer to any whacked-out philosophical question, but this ‘bedtime’ topic is just too ridiculous.
Children never want to go to bed; the adult world is far too interesting to sleep through. And sleep is very scary indeed. Harsh Nightmares about Mommy dying or being nude on the playground — those dreams kept me terrified and wary for years. They somehow taught me some sort of sick life lessons.
No wonder. That child’s prayer including ‘if I die before I wake,’ the most morbid thing. How damaging to a soft little mind! I would lie down in the clammy darkness, back of head on cold feather pillow, terrified of my night to come. Would I have bad dreams, wet my bed, meet my Jesus, or just wake up in midair as my body projectile vomited?
Another disturbing thing about childhood is all the puking. Our little immune systems just aren’t very established, I think. I am supposed to be an expert on these things. Or, is it the fact that we are forced to eat whatever adults decide we should? One morning in particular we had to tear out the carpet and paint the walls. A house with a young person often smells of emesis in the morning. We elementary students never had any warning. The poor mother usually has to get up and do all the scrubbing while the father snores.
“If You Don’t Die Before You Wake”
As I sleep I become a different person. I am emotionally nonsensical and somewhat of a renegade. I should call it a reduction in my consciousness, but I don’t follow the theories. Where does the Tala-self go when there is a reduction in consciousness, being my dream-self? I am not ‘shut off’ the way I am in general anesthesia. That is when my heart is only stimulated to beat, albeit erratically; I am essentially dead or just absent of self.
When a patient is under you somehow ascertain they are not the ‘person’ you previously knew; they are an empty vessel. They turn sickly gray or non-jaundiced canary, or even pink, depending on the situation. A warm piece of meat intermittently blown up by your ventilator.
And there is always the anxiety after the procedure and the long-term anesthetic agents are shut off, as you wait for the body to respond to the name of the person they once were. Are they going to return or not? Where did that entity known as that ‘person’ go, and how will they return? I always have the wind sucked out of me and get tears in my eyes; many others continue their joking about the person’s pubic hair, or the like. They usually do come back. After their recovery time, from being comatose to being animalistic then fetal then drunk with no recollection of these phases, acting out either previous brain patterns or something else I can’t make sense of. And there is no recollection except for before induction and when they suddenly return to their original selves, not the moaning mass of human in recovery. It is as if no time has passed, and they must have had the surgery because the wound is there as the only evidence. All of this takes quite a bit of work and adjuncts to anesthetic agents, all perfectly lined up like a train.
Many don’t return, for whatever reason, usually due to auto accidents. What about them? They call it a persistent vegetative state, but a real vegetable is living in the manner nature intended.
A coma is generally defined as ‘no response to stimuli.’ Then there are Coma Scales. A drunk could tally up quite a score on the scales.
“Teach Me the Path to Take”
Why does no one, if any, explanation of this apply to more than a few cases? Usually they revert to some primitive organism state. Maybe coughing, growling, applying imaginary lip gloss. Some can improve and obtain employment, usually if they are young with many visitors. But they are never the same mentally or physically. Their bodies distort and invert quickly, we splint them, move them, and keep them flaccid.
Sometimes it looks as they are trying to say something. Maybe their head will turn toward you and they extend their arm. But there is no way to comfort them, nothing you can say or do that makes any difference to that person/body; it will only make you feel more comfortable. Where is the traveling salesman, father of three, who is now a strange infant, now less than a chemical reaction? How do the young children take this, their strong handsome Daddy now a biting smelly mousetrap you can’t even hug safely? Sometimes he makes me swear he knows what is happening and recognizes familiar things, but it is so subtle.
If these people only had the slightest idea that this would be their current status.
You can’t ‘care’ — if you did you’d probably run home crying every day. That or become so disturbed or callous you’d need medical help yourself.
We are both alive, the vegetable and I. How can we both be in that classification?
Some/most stay in this state of existence for endless years, and we do our jobs to keep them from rotting or dying. Their only hope to change their status is to deteriorate far enough to be put on life support; maybe authorization will be granted to shut it off. I have heard that even the worst cases have ‘brain activity.’ After removal from some sort of ‘life support’ they may improve enough to try to masturbate. Then perhaps they can eat. If the decision is made to harvest their organs, likely they will be removed while under life support, so their organs can still be living and working. And then they will be permitted to experience ‘death’, that is, lose their vital signs. Some families have a funeral at this point, but would they just be repeating themselves?
So, how are you defined? Are you the worker/student or are you the vegetable in bed?
If there is an afterlife we like to think that our Real Ideal Selves return and we are happy as being that forever. If that is so, where does our Real Ideal Self hide during the years and years we are something else, assuming we ever re-emerge?
Is that lack of dignity, and is it wrong? I won’t accept any single answer because I always find a reason to prove it incorrect.
My hanging fern is... alive and I don’t have the heart to throw it away even though it is mostly brown and an ugly messy sight.
Most of us who have made our livelihood off the fact that reduced-level-of-consciousness clients are being kept ‘alive’ almost unanimously say that we would like to ‘die’ if we were left like our clients. In this frame of consciousness, I agree. A passing bedtime contemplation I have after a fascinating day’s work.