Living is a choice, every day. I mean, yeah, it’s an involuntary biological process, too, but it’s also a choice. Today I went to the funeral of a man who died young after confronting that choice every day under circumstances that beggar belief.
Where to even begin. Before Rich died he’d been utterly estranged from his siblings, and had found his only remaining loved one, his mother, dead on the floor of his home. He had lost a toe and an eye and then most of the sight in the other eye, and then watched his feet rot away. He had to plug a hole in his neck with a finger in order to speak aloud. He totaled his car trying to drive himself to dialysis on the last day he ever drove, after he’d long lost the legal right to drive but had no other options for prolonging his life via treatment. He lost a job because he couldn’t walk and was finally evicted from the last home he had, before being dropped into miserable government-sponsored nursing care. He housed every pill he had and drank them all down with alcohol in a sincere attempt at suicide, but all that happened was he got very drunk and crazed and smashed his head first into a framed picture on the wall and then into a bathtub. During his subsequent hospitalization, every possession he had on earth was taken from his apartment and thrown into a dumpster and taken away.
He made the choice to live every day save the one, and that day the involuntary biological process took over anyway. And so he persevered with a kind of grim, snarling resourcefulness. He gave power of attorney to a former coworker when there was no one else. Once a month he was allowed to drink a single beer, and did, and got fucking hammered, God bless him. Nothing could save him. He hoped for a kidney, but who the fuck would ever give him a kidney. Parts were falling off the main, for Christ’s sake. He got a raw fucking deal in this life, and this life is the only one there is.
Courage isn’t ever the lack of fear. Fearlessness is its own kind of miracle. Courage is doing what you are afraid to do, and almost none of us know anything about that, not really. And hope isn’t the same thing as faith. Faith is fearlessness. Hope is a dowsing rod. Rich had no evident faith in anything or anyone, but he had hope, and he was a goddamn monument to courage. He reminds me that all survival is grim and exhausting, but in it there’s a kind of redemption. I want to say Rich survived all the way to the end of his life. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but it makes its way to the front of my mind and sounds true.
Rich, buddy, we got together for you today and had some beers and shot the shit. You were there. This new world is a testament.