Don’t ask me those questions! Don’t ask me what life means or how we know reality or why we have to suffer so much. Don’t talk about how nothing feels real, how everything is coated with gelatin and shining like oil in the sun. I don’t want to hear about the tiger in the corner or the Angel of Death or the phone calls from John the Baptist.
Phoebe asked me, "Tell me, what do you think of the afterlife?"I was a bit nonplussed. I had no idea what she thought, but I knew that the question must be of greater interest to someone of her age than to me. But our conversation had been completely honest, and before I could speak, honesty and tact had joined hands in my answer. "I have no faith at all," I said, "but sometimes I have hope."I rather think," she replied, "that total annihilation is the most comfortable position."I was shaken. The horse clopped on. The children laughed behind us.When I die," she said, "I don't expect to see any of my loved ones again. I'll just become a part of all this." She waved her hand at the surrounding countryside. "That's all right with me.
Tell me what it is like to die," I answered. He dismounted from his horse, looking at me strangely the whole while. "You experience something similar every day," he said softly. "It is as familiar to you as bread and butter." "Yes," I said. "It is like every night when I fall asleep." "No. It is like every morning when you wake up.
Except they kept asking me questions like 'What is your biggest source of conflict about the Pope?' Or 'Has the Pope ever tried to suppress your scientific work?' Completely out of left field!"They didn't want to hear me tell them how much Pope Benedict supported the Vatican Observatory and its scientific work. So, finally, frustrated that they weren't getting the story they wanted out of me, one of them asked, 'Would you baptize an extraterrestrial?'"What did you answer?""Only if she asks!""I love it! How did they react?""They all got a good laugh, which is what I intended. And then, the next day, they all ran my joke as if it were a straight story, as if I had made some sort of official Vatican pronouncement about aliens.
I love you.”People have concerns besides simply prolonging their lives. Surveys of patients with terminal illness find that their top priorities include, in addition to avoiding suffering, being with family, having the touch of others, being mentally aware, and not becoming a burden to others. Our system of technological medical care has utterly failed to meet these needs, and the cost of this failure is measured in far more than dollars. The hard question we face, then, is not how we can afford this system’s expense. It is how we can build a health-care system that will actually help dying patients achieve what’s most important to them at the end of their lives.
The doctor’s words made me understand what happened to me was a dark, evil, and shameful secret, and by association I too was dark, evil, and shameful. While it may not have been their intention, this was the message my clouded mind received. To escape the confines of the hospital, I once again disassociated myself from my emotions and numbed myself to the pain ravaging my body and mind. I acted as if nothing was wrong and went back to performing the necessary motions to get me from one day to the next. I existed but I did not live.