Five things to harass the Dying

thoughts of mortality are understandable especially when one’s on a Greek island like Astypalea (photo from 2010)
Recently, I was handed a German article about five things one should or could say to the dying to help them in their journey to the afterlife.
Never to pass up an opportunity to take the piss, I’ve decided to write my own list. Here are Five things to harass the dying:
  • Remind them what they’ve done or what they did
  • Point out to them that this (their life, their family, everything good and bad that they’ve done) will eventually be forgotten
  • Whatever palliative medicine they’re receiving, take it away and no matter how they beg for it, don’t give it back
  • Invite each of their enemies over (unexpectedly) for one last little chat
  • Make as many references to your plans once the dying person is finally gone

Now, I realise this isn’t the nicest of lists, but I have one very pointed question for those of you who may or may not be offended.

Why are we trying so hard to make things easier for the dying?

Certainly, if they’ve had a good life and made some sort of peace with everyone in it, then the above list will be useless. It won’t touch them. They’re immune from my machinations.

Lucky them.

Please don’t think I’ve done any of these things on my list. I’m actually quite pleasant and caring to the people in my life who’re at death’s door. I learned quite a lot while watching my father slowly die of complications related to his diabetes.

He died six years ago last week, and lately my thoughts’ve been swirling around topics of mortality. It’s actually quite understandable.

So, what’d possess me to make such a heartless list of cruelty like the one above? What’s wrong with me?

Well, I’ve got a simple answer for you in the form of a few questions.

Why? Why should I forgive what’s been done to me? What benefit does it serve?

I know a bit about Buddhism, and I know the tenet that carrying around such bitterness is akin to taking poison. Not only am I aware of this, but I even try to practice forgiveness. And most of the time I’m pretty good at it. Most of the time.

But like an irregular French verb, there are always exceptions. And what to do with those? Aren’t there some things that’re unforgivable? I believe that the jury’s still out on that one.

goodbye Sebastian

snout of a Dachshund

Before you start thinking that this has become a Dachshund Blog, I assure you that it’s unintentional that I’m writing about weiner dogs twice in one week. I can’t guarantee that I won’t find another topic Dachshund-related, but I can’t imagine that actually happening. To be clear – if a dog of this breed pulls a family from a burning building and saves them all from asphyxiation,  then I’ll likely feel obligated to make some sort of mention of it. You’ve been warned.

It’s customary to look back at those who’ve died at the close of a year. The papers at year’s end are loaded with articles about ‘who we’ve lost in (insert this year here)’. We’ve lost quite  a few notable, as well as notorious, people in the public sphere this year. Yet I only want to talk about one particular dog.

You’d think I’d have the decency to do more than mention my grandmother MildredMid‘ in passing. A lifelong smoker taken down at the spritely age of 91. There’s plenty of material there to fill at least a month’s worth of blogging. And that would barely begin to do her justice. I might still get to that, but first things first.

As I mentioned before, we had weiner dogs in the family. When I was a child, we adopted many dogs. There was a near endless parade of the canine down and out. Through years and years of such experiments in dog adoption, my mother always insisted that one day she’d have her own Dachshund.

Rather than even bother with an empty nest when everyone moved out for college and beyond, my parents found a breeder and soon enough brought home a bouncing baby hound.

Unlike their previous adventures in parenting, Sebastian actually listened. And behaved. Well, mostly. Remarkably well for a Dachshund.

Before I wax poetic about what a gentleman the little guy was, I must tell you: he had his faults. Who doesn’t, right?

He took protecting the property seriously and considered it a personal affront when the gardeners came with their unbearably loud machines and strange voices. And sometimes he smelled…how shall I put this? He was not a young dog.

I’m not necessarily someone who appreciates little dogs, but you have to take even little dogs on a case by case basis, and Sebastian had enough personality to make up for what he lacked in size. More than enough. Sometimes he had enough personality for at least one more dog.

Enough about faults. He had plenty of attributes to more than overshadow his few drawbacks. ‘What was the one singular characteristic that made him who he was?’  you ask. This weiner dog liked to eat. What? You say, ‘Many dogs enjoy a good meal?‘ Yes, you’re right. But this dog truly lived for mealtime. He was not apologetic about this. Not remotely. It was a very earnest obsession with him. His food was neither chewed nor even swallowed. He literally inhaled it.

He knew exactly what time of day it was based upon the exact hour of his meals. After someone had already fed him, he made a game of looking at others in the vicinity with his big, brown, sorrowful eyes…as if saying, ‘No-one’s fed me yet. And it’s five minutes past when I have to be fed. Five minutes. I know I can’t tell time,’ he’d insist, ‘But I know it’s been an eternity lasting exactly whatever five minutes means.’ 

He was the definition of passionate. It was a sort of wonder to behold. Am I overdoing it a bit? I’m really not.

Many dogs could be described this way. What else does a dog have to look forward to? I knew a guy in Colorado who wrote a song from the perspective of his dog. Dan Sheridan was his name and the song’s refrain went:

‘I love you Dan/because it’s dog food again…’

Most dogs love mealtime. Not so remarkable you say? Yes, ok.

But Sebastian had something else about him. It might not have been unique, but I’d never heard of it.

See, my dad was a diabetic. As a matter of fact, he was a Type 1 diabetic, which means he had it as a child…grew up giving himself injections of insulin. He was more than a bit proficient at managing his blood sugar and figuring out when he needed more insulin. Or sometimes when he needed less.

When his blood sugar was too high, it was not a good thing but not immediately life-threatening. Long-term, high blood sugar is not a good thing, but the urgent situation is really low blood sugar. If a diabetic has too low blood sugar, it can be really bad. I’m not going to get more specific, but really bad means what it sounds like.

Why on earth am I giving you a lesson in diabetes? Because our little (but did I mention enormous personality?) Sebastian could somehow tell when my dad’s blood sugar fell below a certain level, would crawl up to my dad’s forehead, and lick him till he startlingly awakened. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he saved my dad’s life on numerous occasions.

When my dad was in the hospital, it was not seeing Sebastian that was hardest on him. There’s a reason why therapy dogs mean so much to people who’re holed up in a ward that they can’t leave. If you’re someone who appreciates dogs. I suppose if you didn’t, you might have already given up reading this.

I could go on about this unbelievable little ball of energy. Fifteen years he gave it his all. I’m sure my mom would’ve been happy if she could have another fifteen more with him.

Come into the kitchen, scoop out a reasonable portion of his kibble, pour it into his bowl and pull your hand away quickly while you watch him inhale.

little (plenty big personality) Sebastian