Friday, January 28, 2011

On sudden death at 60

Originally posted to Multiply January 19 2010 in reaction to a death in the online community.
I missed out on knowing John Oh. I paid a posthumous visit to his penguin-studded site and hugely enjoyed it. The face that smiles In Memoriam from so many Multiply friends' sites is delightful. Full of life, love and humor. Here is someone who will be sorely missed.l

I don't know how old John was, but my guess is sixtyish. Old enough to have done a lot and grown nice and mellow, young to enough to have appetite for more. Great decade, the sixties.

It is a shock to everyone to lose someone like that, bam.

But let me tell you about Max (not his real name), and see whose fate you'd prefer.

I first met Max when we were both manoeuvring pick-up trucks around desirable heaps of horse manure. He was a passionate gardener. He lived in town, but in a secluded corner where he had several extra lots with a huge vegetable patch. He had built his own home, a substantial place.

The next time I met Max was during canvassing at Provincial election time. He was digging a hole for a foundation or something. Anyway he was bare-chested and vigorous and half underground. We had a brief conversation about politics. Max was, as they say here, French from France. As opposed to just plain French, which would be someone from Quebec. We shared our European perspective on North American politics. "Ah", declared Max, "ze Canadian workair, ils sont crazeee!" (for not voting for the social democratic NDP). This is how I always remember him. Full of vim and vigor and opinions.

We bid each other a pinko farewell and went on with the day. The next time I saw Max was as a Home Support client. At age 60 he had suffered a massive stroke. He almost died, but I believe his wife kept him on this plane by sheer will power. He was paralyzed, could barely communicate, and was both furious and deeply depressed. He wanted to be left alone to sleep and preferably die, and I cannot blame him one bit.

Max survived well into his eighties. He outlived his wife. He recovered a tiny bit of mobility, but never regained speech. This strong independent outdoors man lived for decades as an object of care, less than a shadow of his former self.

Is sudden death truly the worse fate?
Travel on in Peace, John Oh.

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