The only way out of disease is to die some other way—say fall off a cliff or get run over by a train—something along those lines.
We are all, as they say, dying from the moment we are born. “I am death alive,” as Babalanja observed in Melville’s novel, Mardi (I read it a long time ago, and I am certain neither of the quote nor of the character’s name).
In her early 40s my first wife developed type 1 diabetes—a rather rare “gift” in an older person, as it is often referred to as “childhood diabetes.” Our son has also had diabetes since the age of 4. They must self inject insulin every day, several times a day; they must consume an extremely restricted diet; they must suffer on a regular basis from the effects of high blood sugar or low blood sugar; and chances are pretty much 100 percent, barring the train accident sort of caveat, that they will both die of complications from diabetes, which causes severe deterioration long term among the vital organs of the body.
Frankly, I would much rather have MS.
Pick a disease, any disease.
My brother died at the age of 30. He died of a rare form of cancer. Over the course of a handful of months he suffocated to death.
I’ll choose MS.
My father and mother also died of cancer, though both at an old age. They were supposed to die of something by that time anyway, right? My mother handled it well, because she also had Alzheimer’s disease and did not know she was dying or that she had cancer. My father struggled all the way out, swinging fists at the ghosts of fate, kicking and growling. The last thing he said to me was “Go get the car, Richard, we’re getting out of here.”
By contrast, MS is rather benign, is it not? It’s rather comfortable and slow. It meanders. It is sometimes interesting to spend time with. Cancer is not interesting. It is horrible, painful, terrifying, and deadly. You do not negotiate with cancer, you do not adapt, you do not take vitamins or exercise or count lesions. The death carrying cells of cancer are legion, uncountable. With most cancers you don’t lose your capacity to think straight, because you don’t have time.
Some years ago I spent five days or so in Savannah, Georgia. (What would I do without terms such as “a couple, or several, or more or less?). What I remember most, through what was otherwise a blear of beer and Bloody Marys (this having been a very low time in my life), is how I had to learn to negotiate the oppressive humidity. I began of course with no idea of what I was up against, attempting to walk along at a brisk clip as we do here in the Pacific Northwest. Within five minutes (or so) the sweat would be dripping from my head and neck and making my clothes stick to my arms and legs. I had to learn to meander, to saunter, to mosey. I noticed along the way that the traffic lights seems significantly longer than anywhere else I had been. This is because people would ‘mosey’ across the street when the walk sign lit up. I watched other people, those I supposed to be natives. They ambled slowly on their way, with plenty of time to gaze about, smell the flowers, admire the tall trees lining the parkway with their long webs of gray moss hanging down from all the high limbs. I still don’t know what those trees are called.
Perhaps it is time to amble a bit more as we go through life, no matter what the weather. Goals are fine, achievements are dandy, but sometimes we can fail to appreciate the wonders of the process, the myriad sights and sounds, faces and places that are the fabric of our immersion in that which is our life. No matter what else it comes with, it comes only once—blades of grass one day, fuel for fire the next.