Death and Dying #death #dying #righttochoose

My roommates (Gary) mother passed away Friday night, she was just a few weeks short of 97 years old. She had been in hospice care for about three weeks and in the nursing home for 18 months. She had been unconscious for over a day and had quit being hungry or thirsty several days prior. Chances are she died peacefully in her sleep. I first met Gary’s mom probably 14 years ago and she was this frail little old woman with a beaming smile and a glint in her eyes. She was sweet and yet stuck in her ways. Even back then I remember her expressing her dissatisfaction with living as long as she had “no one should live this long” she would say.

I don’t want to live that long, hell I think I can accomplish most of what I want to do in the next few years. The older you get the more problems you’re likely to have, no matter what your physical fitness level your bones will start to strain more, your teeth will start to fall out (mine are already doing a great job of falling apart) your system starts to react differently than it has the previous forty years. Nature is saying, hey – that’s enough now, we need fertilizer. Who am I to deny nature, whose idea was it to want to keep living longer and longer. Foolishness.

I have a few friends that I’ve talked with about such things and we’ve even discussed the possibility of getting cancer or some other life threatening disease and not fighting it, I mean really why would you put all that poison into your system to maybe live another ten or twenty years – seems ridiculous to me. Friends who have had cancer say “You can’t say that, you haven’t been there.” I haven’t played ice hockey and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to do that too. OK, maybe that was a silly answer, but I’m pretty sure if the moment came I’d just let the disease have me.

If they’d let me.

See the fear lies in the people who think they know better, the ones that help to influence laws to say we don’t have a right to die when we’re ready. If I was faced with a painful life-threatening illness and wanted to end my life – there are laws that say “Oh No, you can’t kill yourself that’s immoral” or some crap. Remember Dr. Kevorkian? That guy helped people die, not people who were depressed or spent all the law firms money and were looking for a way out, but the ones that were actually dying or living in such pain that death was a solution. That man was sent to prison for 10 – 25 years for helping people die, for putting voluntary people out of their misery. We’re one fucked up society.

Anyway. I’ve talked to a lot of people about dying and coming to the end of their journey. One friend expects he’ll live another ten years max as his parents both died at that age. Several friends have no desire to be hooked up to machines that help them breathe or stay alive in any fashion. More than one friend has expressed interest in denying treatment if they were diagnosed with a life threatening illness. Most of these folks are happy with life as it is but have done what they wanted to do in life. These folks have lived their lives like they wanted to live them and are happy, surprise surprise.

I’m not generally happy, but I’m content with my choices, accomplishments and story. I’m ready.

Tuesday Night Big Book Study 7:15 DCC

Just an upfront disclaimer: this is how I perceive things. You may not perceive things the way that I do. You might be offended or butt hurt at what I’ve had to say, if that’s the case you really shouldn’t be reading my blog…

When I sobered up I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by Big Book Thumping, Tradition Practicing, Service oriented old-timers. I was told on a few occasions to take the cotton out of my ears and put it in my mouth until I knew what I was talking about – that was usually during a step meeting where they were discussing a step I hadn’t done yet… you know, any of them. From that group, I think it was called the Sunday Serenity Group, I not only got to hear about the Steps and Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous I got to see people actually putting those principles in action in their daily lives. This was my first “Home Group” and I made it there every Sunday night for a year, just like I was told to do. That meeting wasn’t a Big Book Study Group, it was a Step meeting with the last meeting of the month the Tradition of the month. What I did get at that meeting was a sponsor who had been taken through the Steps as laid out in the first 164 pages of our text-book, Alcoholics Anonymous – and he was willing to take me through that same process which gave me the tools I needed to not only find a power greater than myself that would relieve me of my alcoholism, but also provide the tools to be a productive member of society.

One of my other regular meetings was the 5:30 Monday Night Big Book group, there we went through the book; every week reading a couple of pages out of the Book and then folks could share their experience with what was read – if they had any. This group would get to the end of the 164 and turn around and read it again. The Book, the Steps, the Traditions – were everywhere that I went to meetings. I couldn’t have escaped if I had wanted to.

I was also a member of the Eau Claire Pacific Group that meets every Thursday night. An open speaker meeting with thirty minutes of call-up before the speaker. Great enthusiasm, lots of service work, experience strength and hope each week from the podium. It’s where I learned to feel comfortable introducing myself to strangers, where I learned to shake new people’s hands and where I learned the importance of suiting up and showing up.

When I moved to the DC area I tried to find meetings that were similar to what I had gotten sober with. I looked for a good Step Meeting that met regularly, I sought out a Big Book Study and I also hoped to find a regular speaker meeting. I didn’t find things that were like home. This is typical, and something I should have anticipated but did not. In hindsight upon traveling all over the country in the last ten years – every region has its little traditions that are specific to the region and as you may know each group is autonomous except in matter affecting other groups or AA as a whole.

Every Big Book meeting I encountered was focused more on reading the stories in the back of the book (after Page 164) then they were the meat of the deal.  The directions, the prayers, the actions in the front of the book weren’t read at all – unless it was to read the Promises, How it Works or the end of A Vision for You. Every step meeting I encountered focused more on the steps as laid out in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (the argument here by those with more time than I have is that when Bill wrote the 12×12 he had more experience and knew better what to say for how to stay sober – but I’ve not found in that book anything like the specific direction and suggestions that I find in the Big Book so I nod and smile at them).

A few months before 9/11 I started a Big Book Meeting using the format I grew up with in WI, but between 9/11 and the honest belief by attendees that AA is about coming to complain about your day – it didn’t last. So I officially gave up trying to find or create meetings that were similar what I had been brought up with. I still went to meetings just to occupy the chair, not much more. If I shared, which was rare, it was because of something I had heard that was just that outrageous that I couldn’t contain my anger or disappointment. That’s not really a good way to share the message – brow beating people who have managed to NOT pick up a drink today or for the last 10 – 20 years is no way to win friends either. So I settled on continuing to read my book, listening to speakers via Round-Ups and Conferences, Podcast or CD of the month clubs – while still attending meetings regularly.

First Edition Big Book

Then I met my tattoo artist, who’s been in DC a few years now from Houston, TX (there is a Houston WI or MN just a FYI) who talked to me over long tattoo sessions about his sobriety, the book and the difference in meetings here in DC vs meetings in other parts of the country. He invited me to come to a Saturday meeting he attends where he said was attracting people interested in the book. I honestly just didn’t give it any real consideration – I had given up on meetings here after all. Then a person heard me share at a meeting I regularly attend and he thanked me for sharing and ALSO invited me to that group, so I figured maybe there was something to it – never saw that person again btw.

That first Saturday Noon meeting I met two or three more people, relatively new to the area who also were brought up on the Big Book and were desperately seeking a solution based meeting. The next week, I met another two people and before you knew it there were six of us that really wanted to start a new meeting that would “study” the book. We started mass texts, long chains of emails, discussed formats, laughed at one another, ate lots of food and became a group – sooner than we’ve become a meeting.

Our book, our text-book, says in There is a Solution page 29 “Further on , clear-cut directions are given showing how we recovered.” It’s my belief, and the belief of this new group, that people need to be shown these directions. It’s my belief that if they follow the suggestions as written in this book they will be “rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed”

So on Tuesday nights at 7:15, starting on July 31, 2012 at the Dupont Circle Club we’re going to start reading the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The format of the meeting is reading a small section of the book, then allowing all those who want to participate a chance to share – lather, rinse, repeat. Once we get to page 164 we’ll start all over again. If you want to discover a design for living that really works, a way of life that is immensely greater than you ever imagined… come join us.

This time I’m not creating a meeting alone with no one else knowing what I’m talking about, this time I had to compromise on several things that I wanted, this time … well, this time it might really work. I’d love that.

If you’re looking for a meeting to talk about your bad day or complain about your spouse… this is probably not the meeting for you, fortunately for you there are plenty of those type of meetings and we can probably direct you to one within walking distance. 

Thump, Thump, Thump

Great Reads

Recently I’ve read two older books that I wouldn’t normally have picked up to read: The Godfather by Mario Puzo and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Below this line there may be significant spoilers, if you think you want to read these books and never have before just stop reading now.

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I read Fahrenheit 451 after a friend posted on Facebook that he’d never read it, having never read it myself and having Mr. Bradbury die recently I thought I’d better see what all the fuss was about.   I hadn’t read any synopsis of the story and only went into it with the knowledge of Ray Bradbury being a sci-fi guy so I had an open mind – I’d learned long ago that just because it’s science fiction doesn’t mean it’s good. What I found was a world where firemen don’t put out fires anymore, they start them. They burn houses that have books and if there are people inside those houses that wont move then the people burn too. It’s the story of one particular fireman who starts to think… that’s it, he meets this strange girl who proposes silly questions to him that start his mind working again. When he goes home that night his wife has taken a bottle of pills and the emergency crews come and resuscitate her and tell him they deal with a few of those each night, nothing to be worried about, sure enough the next day the wife has no idea what he’s talking about and just wants to watch her series in the “room”. There is a lot more to the story, but that’s where it starts.

The story is really quite good, very short and I recommend you pick it up if you’ve never read it. For me it was a reflection on modern times of all the brainless zombies watching TV and longing to be entertained but unwilling to think for themselves and those that do think for themselves are taken away and made to conform to the norm. It touches on all aspects of society today – young kids with no supervision, government officials and media squashing the truth, millions of brain addled glued to the TV. Go pick it up, you’ll thank me later and you know what? You might see something totally different from I did, and that’s perfectly OK. Authors love that, well I think they do anyway, I’d rather someone see what they want to see in one of my stories instead of seeing only what I want – your imagination could make mine look like a nanobyte.

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Also on Facebook I saw a link listing top movies of all time and realized I’ve never seen The Godfather so I posted that and asked if it was a necessity. Quite a few folks said I should see it, and my friend Chip said: “The movies.. especially the first are great.. The book.. is wonderful.. Read it.. you’ll thank me later..” So I purchased it on my Kindle app and entered a rich world of characters, stories, connections… it was beautiful the way it was laid out and each piece fit so well together. I went in expecting to be bored, I mean what do I care about mobsters? The storytelling was just phenomenal and I kept wondering what was going to happen to characters with each turn of the electronic page. I didn’t want to like any of the characters to start out with but I ended up really just being a part of the story. I started it on a Sunday and was finished on a Thursday – I was in the middle of a hundred different things and only had a chance to read most of it at night before drifting to sleep.

Now, having read it I thought that I’d probably better see the movie to see what all the fuss is about. I’ve made it through half of the movie so far and I really am not very happy watching. There are so many rich details from the book that didn’t come through the parts I’ve seen. So many scenes that defined a character or a reaction that weren’t there at all before a pivotal scene. I know what you’re thinking… The book is always better than the movie. But this was really lackluster in comparison to what I’ve seen done with movies – the Lord of the Rings Trilogy for example was a beautiful transition from page to screen and I felt I could state word for word the lines I expected to be coming. The Watchmen is another story that was done really well (yes, they screwed up some of the stories for odd reasons, but) it stuck remarkably well to the book. I guess that’s what I was really hoping to see. If you’re going to name a movie one of the top 10 of all time, I would expect more than what I’ve seen so far of it… Some have said “you have to watch the second one, that fills in a lot of what your talking about” Well, that’s not really what I had hoped to do… I think the first one made the list, not the second one.

Maybe someday I’ll try to watch the movie again when the book isn’t so fresh in my mind, but I think it’s a shame that this much goodness wasn’t better. Some might be offended, but hey it’s what I thought so bite me.

Wisconsin, Wedding, Withering Heat

I flew out to Wisconsin this time for the wedding of very dear friends, Eric and Rosy. Eric and Rosy dated back in high school and like most high school romances it came to an end and they went their separate ways. A few years back they rekindled the love they felt and I was fortunate enough to be the best man for the ceremony. They got hitched in Wisconsin Dells at a little hotel called the White Rose Inn. I had never been to Wisconsin Dells before and was amazed at the traffic, tourists and teething toddlers.

The Happy Couple

I stayed at the Great Wolf Lodge, Eric picked it I think, a family friendly resort with it’s own water park – let me say it was more expensive than a very nice hotel in DC would have been; Eric is no longer allowed to pick hotels. I was given an accessible room (there was a wheelchair symbol on the sign outside the door) that wasn’t fully compliant, I notice these things now that I’ve worked for Jim for six years – I’ve sent them an email about the issues I noticed. Eric and Rosy managed to pick one of the hottest days of the year to get married, and I’m amazed we all survived the sweltering heat. It was very sweet and I finally got to meet all of the kids and had a great time.

On Sunday morning I left the Dells for Galesville, I told my Ma I’d be there about noon so she wouldn’t skip church or her regular Sunday routine, I really don’t want her to go out of her way. Rhonda, Michael and Michelle were at the house when I arrived. Ma returned from lunch and Cory and Danielle came over with Charlie and Patrick and we had pizza. Mostly at Ma’s Ma and I read while Rhonda went to work and Michael worked on demos or what ever. At the suggestion of my best friend Suzanne’s dad, Chip, I started to read The Godfather and couldn’t put it down – after reading it I started to watch the movie but it really is watered down so I don’t know how much I’m going to enjoy it.

Tuesday night I had dinner with my sister Amy, her daughter Joplin and Amy’s long term boyfriend who’s name escapes me for whatever reason. Afterwards we played Cranium for a while which was fun.

Wednesday I headed up to the Chippewa Valley. Pat and I went off to see The Amazing Spider-Man which I really liked. Pat, Brenda and I went out to dinner at Texas Roadhouse and then headed back to my hotel where we all partook of the swimming pool. Did I mention this was the hottest week of the year? Thursday I had lunch with Nicholas at Taco John’s, swam for a while in the hotel pool, napped and finally headed out to the Eau Claire Pacific Group where I was the main speaker – I did ok, nothing to get excited about, just ok. After the meeting I joined the guys for food at Perkin’s before heading back home to bed. Friday I had breakfast with Pat and Brenda. Friday afternoon I met my brother Ryan for dinner at Texas Roadhouse and then we went to see the movie Savages, which was ok.

Saturday morning after dropping in to say goodbye to the Isenberger’s I drove down to Galesville and used my GPS, which was a huge mistake. The GPS on the way down to the Dells had me leave the interstate to go off on a county road for a few miles only to put me back on the interstate – it also had me drive through the Dells to my hotel which was two exits up and would have been easier to get to had I stayed there… had I remembered all that I might have not even thought of following the GPS. But I did and ended up on several back roads but finally did make it to my Ma’s. Ma and I went to Winona for dinner. Michael was brough back from canoeing and was passed out in his truck until about 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning Ma, Rhonda, Greg, Michael and I went out to breakfast and around noon I headed off to the LaCrosse airport.

I had a long lay over in Minneapolis, three hours, and then the head flight attendant was pretty grumpy on our plane. She had us turn off our electronic devices 5 – 10 minutes before the door was closed and came on the loudspeaker a few times to insist that we turn off our electronic devices so we could depart on time, meanwhile folks were still coming on board and we were subjected to listening to children crying an obnoxious laughter. Any time she made announcements you could here the frustration in her voice, obviously she’d had a long day and been subjected to annoying passengers, but at the end of the day you still have to treat your customers right. As we were landing there was some turbulence before the initial decent and she had us turn off our electronic devices much sooner than we normally would and then when the pilot announced we were beginning our initial decent she came on to say something about us not following crew member instructions – really if she had been even a bit nicer I’m sure it would have gone better for her.

Then I arrived home and the kitty was very happy to see me, and she’s interrupted my writing this several times for love… so I’d better go see to her.