Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Here's to You, BrainHell

Several months ago, I read a book called "Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life," by Eugene O'Kelly, a 53-year-old CEO of KPMG, who in May 2005 -- right before my own father was diagnosed with cancer -- was told he had a late-stage, inoperable brain tumor and just months to live.

He decided to approach his death like any other project in his successful business life: Take control of it, guide it and learn from it.

I am taken with people who chronicle and share their last days like that.

I was fortunate enough to be with my father during his last two weeks, when he amazed me with his grace and humor, saying things like, "A funny thing happened on the way to the barber shop. I wound up in the hospital."

So, I was fascinated to learn of a blogger named BrainHell, who recounted online the last years of his life after being diagnosed with ALS. On Feb. 2, he died at the age of 44. His last post:

ok i'm dead. so what? i partook of much wonder and beauty. you should be so
Here's to you, BrainHell, and all the souls like you out there who share your insights on the final frontier.

I personally believe that embracing the specter of death makes us live life more fully, and infuses our joys with poignancy. I know the reason I get such a kick out of my life is that I've been through my parents' tough deaths. I appreciate everything and take little for granted.

How boring would it be if we lived forever? In grad school, I wrote a short story about a world in which couples could choose to live forever -- and not have kids to replace them -- and never age; or, have kids, age and die. The main characters were a husband and wife who were trying to agree on which road to take.

Yes, I am intrigued by death.

Ever since an anthropology course I took freshman year in college in which we read The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker, I've been convinced that every decision we make stems from just that urge, so I'm looking forward to reading this new book: Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death.

On that note, sweet dreams!

1 comment:

Vicky said...

Hi Sue - Thanks so much for this thoughtful and touching post. Having just witnessed (almost literally) my step-mom's death only a week or so ago, it's been on my mind as well. I've never read that story that you wrote; I'd like to, if you would care to share it with me.