On Death and Dying



“It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we’re alive – to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are.”Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

My best friend thinks she has my number.  She believes that I have profound issues with death and that it is something that I fear or cannot handle.  The truth of the matter is that I’ve seen death up close several times because I’ve worked in nursing homes and hospitals.  I’ve held the hands of the sick and dying, washed down their lifeless bodies, and prayed for their souls to be welcomed into the embrace of the Father. I posses a healthy respect for death’s inevitable finality.  We all walk this earth in the knowledge that today could be the last day of our lives.  However, the longer we live, the longer we expect to live and we go through the motions of life forgetting to actually live for today.

What I can confess to is a vulnerability to anything that reminds me of my favorite Uncle who was taken from us a few days before his 52nd birthday.   His wisdom and guidance helped compensate for the absent father that has thankfully re-entered my life.  He shared so much of himself with me. It’s humbling to look back on it now.  His hulking presence gave me a healthy respect for authority and kept me on the straight and narrow.  In the last days of his life, before pancreatic cancer manifested itself, he drew me closer and imparted all of the wisdom of a rich but unfinished life. There was so much living yet to do

As the realization of death’s approaching advance came crashing down on him, he spent almost all of the service connected benefits he fought 30 years to obtain as if it would give him more time.  When he finally told me his terminal diagnosis, I cried for weeks.

Part of me believes that Michael Jackson was trapped in that cycle because of the way he lived cocooned in the protective amber of secrecy and wealth.  His physical pain, whether real or imagined, was one distraction in a long list of distractions that rendered him helpless in dealing with the cause of his emotional pain.   His profligate spending, which was the conscious manifestation of a burning desire to help others, almost seems like my Uncle Jim’s subconscious bargaining with God for more time.

Michael’s death brings all of that back for me and it is a painful reminder that I need to deal with my own bullshit so that I can be free to live whatever life God has planned for me in all of its fullness.  I refuse to be a prisoner of other people’s expectations or of my own insecurities because tomorrow is not promised.

21 thoughts on “On Death and Dying

  1. bill jones

    I don’t think the poor bastard ever had a chance.
    If you’re the main money earner in a family at age 10 or so, you’re basically fucked.
    He certainly had talent, but the main thing that hits me, and that I’m eternally grateful for, is that his death interrupted the week of Farrah Fawcett that the cable news guys were planning.

  2. Michael never had a childhood. Make no mistake, Michael would have been an oddity in any Black family of that generation, and you know it. Now, his talent was singing; what if it had been something else. Because we could SEE it as a child, there are some people who are destined for something out of the ordinary. When you see such talent in a child, and it’s actually harnassed – and that’s what Joe Jackson did – the result is what you see. I think of Olympic athletes…the thing is, most of their preparation is done behind the scenes, so that when you see them, there’s 10-15 years worth of work already poured into them. For Michael Jackson, we SAW those 10-15 years. How can you be normal when you’ve been famous since you were 10?

    That’s why Michael could be friends with Elizabeth Taylor, who was what, 12, when she became famous?

    It’s a surreal world.

    Bill is right, and like Michael, Elizabeth Taylor was the breadwinner for her family too. It’s an odd thing, which is why entertainment usually eats up Child Stars.

    The testimonial to Michael’s talent is that he made the transition from child to adult star.

    He’s never been to school. Didn’t know what it was to be in class. Never had that socialization. Never did anything you, or I, or 99.9999% of the world has done as a right of passage, even the rich among us has done.

    He was trapped by demons created by the world he inhabited.

  3. OT: the firefighter case was decided 5-4 in favor of “reverse discrimination”. Don’t even have to look to see how a certain Justice Thomas voted…

  4. Darth Paul

    Living a good life for the sake of a blissful eternal afterlife (or whatever after death) and not for the sake of goodness is hypocritical. A good deed is its own reward.

    Also, being around death is not the same thing as experiencing it personally. Having been ‘dead’ for a few minutes and subsequently revived in an ER, I can say that (for me) there’s nothing afterwards: no lights, devils, angels, spirits, nothing! To me, this is why it’s important to be fair, uncruel, and honest/direct in the rest of my life.

  5. I’ve been iffy on the blogosphere myself, SB, but was posting on my blog about vigils tonight for murdered Seaman August Provost, and thought I’d skip over here to see if you’d made a triumphant return…and you have! Your words, your insight, your honesty and candor, ALWAYS have me either seeing things in a new light, nodding my head along in agreement, or shaking it in the other direction if I disagree. 😉 I’m just REALLY glad to see you posting again and wanted to share that with you. You were missed.

  6. akech

    The legalized drug pushes who are bringing plane loads of drugs to flood poor neighborhoods are the same corporate thieves in the pharmaceutical research industries who have decided that finding non-addictive drugs to cure diseases is not a profitable business!

    They have established that addicting the world by adding addictive cocktails prescription drugs guarantees them ultimate non-stop profits. Their objective is to ensure that people consume the addictive medication until they stop breathing! Their targets are (a) old people in or out of nursing homes or hospitals (b) people prone to sports injuries (c) talents in the entertainment industry (d) people in stressful jobs/situations —- to name only a few.

    These corporate leeches even add addictive stuff to food. People are eating until their blood vessels are blocked and the supply of oxygen to the heart and brain becomes non-functional!

    They have their offices in Washington DC controlling the people we vote for. They claim people have the freedom of choice. If that is true, why do they have a strangle hold in Washington DC?

  7. ph2072

    Agreed rikyrah. Journalism won’t be the same without him. (It actually hasn’t been the same SINCE HIM in YEARS.)

  8. Daniel Bruno Sanz would like to share his Huffington Post essay with you;
    Please post it on your website and send your link to us for inclusion at DanielBrunoSanz.com
    Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/DanielBrunoSanz
    Here are the keyords in the essay:
    13th Amendment, 14th Amendment, 2012 Election, B.E.T., Barack Hussein Obama, Booker T. Washington, Bryant Park, Cipriani’s, Colin Powell, Criminal Industrial Complex, Deb Slott, Do The Right Thing, Heidi Klum, Hip-Hop, Mark Penn, Melting Pot, Pink Elephant, Racism, Reconstruction, Robert Johnson, Seal, Segregation, Shelby Steele, Sidney Poiter, Sonia Sotomayor, Spike Lee, Tavis Smiley, Terrence Yang, The Dance Flick, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Virginia Davies, W.E.B. Dubois, Zero Mostel, Politics
    Prologue to Obama 2012
    We approach the future walking backwards, our gaze forever fixated on the past. Predicting the future is not a passive exercise; we invent it every day with our actions.
    I began the sketches for what would ultimately become Obama 2012 in March 2007, a month after Barack Obama declared his candidacy. I had spent much of the previous 18 months living abroad as an entrepreneur and statesman of sorts, and I was slightly out of touch with the pulse of life on the street in the United States. I learnt about Sen. Barack Obama’s Springfield, IL speech formally declaring his candidacy for president of the United States through one of the international cable news channels and thought how great it would be to have a fresh start after years of mediocrity in Washington and a plummeting reputation around the world.
    By September, after what seemed like raising a six-month-old child, my sketches had turned into Why the Democrats Will Win in 2008 the Road to an Obama White House. It was my answer to the burning question everyone had back in March: Can he really win? Actually, not everyone thought it was a question. For many people, including Mark Penn, director of the Clinton campaign, the answer was an easy “no way.” This strategic blunder made it that much easier for the Clinton campaign to be defeated. Then there were Black pundits like Shelby Steele, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, who came out with a 2007 book entitled A Bound Man, Why Obama Can’t Win.
    Being Black did seem to be an automatic disqualification, but then why did someone need to write an entire book arguing what should have been patently obvious? Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell came to my mind and I remembered that he could have run for president in 1992 as a war hero. But Colin Powell was Ronald Reagan’s protégé and got a special pass on the race question. Black conservatives like Justice Thomas, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell were careful to disassociate themselves from liberal thinkers and activists like Jesse Jackson, who lost, as expected, the 1984 and 1988 Democratic primaries. Ultimately, Colin Powell, in spite of all his honors, declined to run for president. His wife Alma feared for his safety. Common sense said that a candidate like Obama, for numerous insurmountable reasons, didn’t stand a chance of winning the Democratic primary, let alone a general election in which 10% of the electorate is African American and Republicans controlled the White House for 20 of the preceding 28 years. But I decided that Obama’s chances merited a closer examination. In it, I would bring to bear my gambling skills.

  9. We’d be more than happy to get more people arrested for fighting dogs. At what time and address are they being held, and what’s a good phone number to reach dog fighters in the evenings? Screw the people, we love animals. 🙂

  10. mark

    Ok, almost time to move on. Michael will live on forever. You all will be forgotten.

    I saw Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock at the Met in NYC back in the day, and I always thought Chick was better than Herbie. In retrospect, there are more Hancock tunes that I’d rather listen to.You younger units probably have no clue, I also saw McCoy Tyner. Any of you “music” fans no him?

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