Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dream on...

In the past I've occasionally heard that when someone very close to you dies, your will to live can also die along with that person. I have to imagine that this is a common feeling yet I haven't seen too many cases where the will to live didn't eventually spring back, sometimes pretty rapidly as a matter of fact.


The following pair of people have this week caused me to ponder whether sickness or accidents along with murder or other natural and unnatural modes of death don't necessarilly have to be any of the causative factors for someone to leave this world. The events that took place might have simply been the culmination of life, but the circumstances surrounding these same events make them appear as if they were calculated.


Let me give you a little of the background as it was told to me. They were the last two children of six and aside from having the love of siblings, they had always been the best of friends as well; they were lucky. For ease of reading I'm going to name them Tony and Maria, brother and sister. Both had been married and had children of their own. Both of their spouses had previously died along with a couple of their children. He was 68 and she was 74 and both were in average health for their ages. Although Tony lived in his own home, Maria was living in an assisted care facility where she didn't have to worry about the day to day upkeep of a house. On a daily basis Tony would go to visit Maria and they would spend many hours together, he was the one person she relied on and looked forward to seeing every day. There was a time when Tony had been sick and Maria had someone take her to his house daily until he was well enough to begin his visits again; they were almost inseparable.


Last week Tony died. He had a heart attack in his sleep and it was Maria who summoned someone to go to his house to see if everything was alright when he didn't show. When the discovery was made, of course his children were contacted, Maria was told, and they then began arranging his funeral. It was at this time that Maria exclaimed that she no longer wanted to live; she had no reason, her life no longer had a purpose. Her family told her how much they needed her but she was insistant that they would be fine without her.


Over the next 8 days Marias appetite grew almost non existant and she seemed to be a bit disoriented at times. On the evening of day 8, she told her niece who was visiting that she was tired and wanted to go to sleep. She told her she was going to see Uncle Tony. Maria never woke up the next morning and it was her funeral that the family was now planning.


Can someones heart break to the point of no repair? Is it possible that we could have some control over when we choose to die or looking at it conversely, might there be some force within us that helps keep us going, preventing us from meeting death until we're absolutely ready for it? Of course it might have just been fate, her time, but we'll never know the answer to that. She may have, and thinking logically, probably would have died whether Tony was alive or not but if I entertain the romantic in me I could want to believe that her time of death was her choice. They were only brother and sister but had been there as friends for each other their entire lives, and when he was gone...she wanted to be with him again so badly that she chose to sacrifice herself, her life. If she did in fact have the option of when to die and chose this time, and this is picked further apart you could most likely see a needy almost greedy side to her. But just imagine for a moment, dream, that when true love, no matter what capacity, dies, we could have the ability to be in control of the choice of dieing with it or staying behind and suffering without it. Letting it go and continuing on with our life anew, or following it to the grave, our choice. I wonder how many of us would find that to be a hard choice to make?

10 comments:

HungryGhost said...

Wow - I make this stuff up and you live it. I am a firm believer that a broken heart can be a fatal as one filled with cholesterol. Your writing is splendid and the stories are riveting.

Stealth said...

I think some people may have this ability but not everyone. I've seen too many of my hospice patients beg to be killed because of their suffering. If they could have willed themselves dead, they most certainly would have.

karen said...

I agree with Stealth, however, I do think with some people the phenomena is very real. It just depends on the individual's psycho-physiological response. It is actually called "broken heart syndrome." It is more common in women for whatever reason. I have taken care of a couple of women in the ICU with it over the course of the past few years. I mean, that was their real diagnosis (broken heart syndrome - both lost spouses)... Rare, but true. They both lived, but both had real heart attacks from vessel spasms. Johns Hopkins did a big study a few years ago.

Great post!

karen said...

Addendum - sorry for the comment being so long, but it is a very interesting topic. I just found the official technical term. It is "Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy," if you want to look into it more. Fascinating stuff.

paisley said...

well... you know me ,, little miss sunshine...

i don't know if you can will yourself to death or not ,, but i really hope so... i hate to see people suffering and living on and on in mangled or useless bodies... and if we can be taught to will ourselves to death,, i will support that theory and feel that mankind has actually done something of value for the human race....

of course i support the avenue of assisted suicide as well,,, so that may be why i think willing yourself to death is just all that more inviting....

Agnes Mildew said...

It certainly sounds as though this lady did die of a broken heart, such as is evinced by the comments from Karen and Stealth. And probably, Maria was right in feeling that she was no longer needed - her younger family have their own lives to get on with, and maybe she also felt a burden to them, what with being in a care home etc. To be reunited with the person you love might be a romantic notion in our mortal minds, but I think it is one we need to hold on to. The thought of a life of nothing and no-one after 70-odd years on earth is a rather gloomy one. I hope Maria and Tony are having high jinks in heaven!

Matty said...

Wonderful story. I believe you can die from a broken heart..people who have strong minds can tell their bodies to just let go. It would be nice to know that we have that option. I'll have to check out Karen's technical term.

Mark Dykeman said...

Is it possible that the age of those two siblings was the determining factor? After all, if they had both been in their 40s or 50s, she would have likely have had many years of good health ahead of her and thus may have been more likely to want to carry on.

deathsweep said...

hungryghost - I couldn't make this stuff up if I even wanted to. You my friend have that gift, and thanks for the compliment!

stealth & karen - I know the vast majority don't have this choice but I would imagine that most would want it; I for one would.

little paisley sunshine - wouldn't it be nice?

agnes - I agree, I hope they're having a great time of it wherever they may be!

matty - I haven't had the chance to check out what karen had to say - I'd appreciate it if you let me know what you find.

mark - sure it was probably their age - it just seemed so coincidental what with her words and the outcome!

Thanks to all of you!

DS

MedStudentWife said...

I think her heart broke...