I’ve thought kindly of Death since I read the novel, On A Pale Horse, by Piers Anthony. I mean, who’d want that job? Not the guy who got stuck with it, against his will, in the Incarnation story. But when he was called to the scene of a car accident, and a woman was crushed behind a steering wheel in horrible pain, and when he reached inside of her and gently removed her soul to release it, he realized that Death sometimes is a blessing. I realized that when my father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells. Dad’s cells made so much protein that his blood got so thick, his heart could hardly pump it through his veins. At the beginning, he’d go to the hospital, and they’d take blood out of one of his arms, put it through a machine that used centrifugal force to separate the heavy protein from the clean blood, and then they’d put his clean blood back into his other arm. At the beginning, it would be a long time before he’d have to redo the procedure. But the longer the disease went, the shorter time between treatments. Until his skeleton and skull looked like moths had eaten at his bones, leaving pockmarked holes scattered through them. The thing is, by the end, it was a mercy when he died. He hadn’t turned sixty yet, but quality of life can matter more than quantity.
Years later, I watched my grandmother–in her nineties–fight a losing battle with diabetes. She nicked a toe and got gangrene. That spread to her foot. That spread to her leg. The leg had to be amputated. They didn’t get it all, and they had to amputate above the knee. She didn’t survive the second operation, but she let us all know that if the nurses didn’t wheel her back to her room, she was fine with that. She’d lived a hard life, surviving the depression, but a good one. She wasn’t up for another battle. Death, for her, was a blessing.
Now, I watch my mom struggle with Alzheimer’s. She’s in the final stages. She can’t remember things and gets frightened. Every once in a while, on a rare visit when she’s lucid, she tells me that she’s ready “to go.” I wish she could. I wish when your will got too weary, you could leave here. Or do I? Would we all hit a tough patch and take the easy way out? I’m glad it’s not my decision. But I know this, Death isn’t the scary, horrible thing for me that it used to be.
In my novella, Destiny With Death, Death assists people from this world to the next one. When you’re suffering, he’s a release. And he’s welcome. But if it’s not your time, he won’t take you. And if you make him angry, well….that’s just not smart.