This past weekend Robyn, Lola the pup, and I were in the Cleveland area to see our friends Bob and Linda. Early Saturday afternoon, while Lola stayed home to relax, we humans left to eat at a cozy restaurant/gift shop that only serves lunch.
After enjoying cups of the delicious homemade soup – I had a subtle pumpkin and sausage concoction—we happily were chewing on hearty sandwiches accompanied by homemade kettle chips and a pickle, when suddenly I realized that Robyn appeared to be experiencing a medical emergency! This apparent emergency quickly passed. Nonetheless, we scooped her up (settled our tab), and whisked her away to the emergency room of the world-famous Cleveland Clinic, fortunately, located but a short drive from the restaurant. The timeworn proverb “all’s well that ends well” neatly summarizes this unexpected Saturday afternoon adventure, although I didn’t get to finish my delicious sandwich.
Things could have been much worse. Robyn might have been facing a real medical emergency rather than something that she would follow up with her doctor and monitor here at home. Or, for example, she might have been alone. Or, she might have been driving a vehicle when suddenly momentarily incapacitated. This once happened to our friend Bob while he was parking his car in a lot. Sometimes the only thing preventing possible disaster is pure serendipity.
Seeing Robyn on Saturday afternoon and taking her to the hospital naturally brought to my mind similar occasions when I had to care for Lee. Entering the crowded emergency room at the Cleveland Clinic felt eerily familiar to me.
Once I got Robyn into the capable hands of the professionals and fell out of my caregiver mode, my thoughts turned to me. Now, as I’m wont to mention here from time to time, I am an aging and childless widower and on my own most of the time. Whenever I start to consider how I’d fend for myself under circumstances similar to Robyn’s, my thoughts inevitably turn to the notion of my demise.
The authoritative New England Journal of Medicine reports that as of 2019, for the first time since the early 20th century, the home has become the most common place to die, replacing the hospital. See https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1911892. I consider this to be a good news and a sign of human progress. However, this fact nonetheless begs the question whether I should worry about dying at home in my sleep. See “How Worried Should You Be About Dying In Your Sleep?” by Alex Janin, published in the Wall Street Journal (https://www.wsj.com/story/should-you-worry-about-dying-in-your-sleep-19861c91).
For me, the answer to the question is a firm and unequivocal, “no!” As J.P. McFarland observes in a short, humorous take, “Dying in Bed,” (https://thebucket.com/columns/squirrel-stew/dying-in-bed/):
“Beds have been around for thousands of years, but the idea of dying in one’s own has always been a quaint fantasy. It’s the Holy Grail of death: something hoped for and only rarely achieved.”
Indeed, the idea that there could be any debate on this subject strikes me as absurd to the point of being Monty Pythonesque.