Musings on Death; Or Why I Can Never Go to IHOP Again

Ok, it’s not as morbid as it sounds. I swear.

It started on Wednesday night, when my doorbell rang. I was lying on the loveseat portion of my couch, my computer on my lap with my legs slung over one of the armrests. There was no heat in my apartment so I had been lying under a blanket like that for close to three hours.

My super was at the door, with some guy to look at our radiators to see why we didn’t have heat. I jumped up quickly to get the door because my mom was on the other side of the loft.I opened the door and let Manny (our super) in. As they passed I got that headrush feeling and got a bit dizzy. I closed the door behind them and closed my eyes, which usually gets rid of that feeling.

My eyes fluttered a bit before opening again. I was on the ground; in the corner of my entrance hallway, my head a bit sore from hitting the door. No one had noticed what happened and I couldn’t have been down for longer than a couple seconds. I stood slowly and walked to the couch and sat down with my head in my hands, still a bit woozy. Manny, the heat guy and my mom were talking about the radiator. I quickly went to the bathroom and sat down, closing my eyes and trying to take deep breaths.

I don’t know why it affected me so. I mean, logically I knew it wasn’t a big deal. I quickly realized why I passed out: I had been laying on my  couch for three hours, my legs above my head and I got up too quickly. I jogged to my door to open it quickly. It makes perfect sense.

I have never really experienced death. By that, I don’t mean I haven’t died. No one really close to me has died. I mean, the closest was my great-aunt Sarah, who died when I was eight. I knew her vaguely as my bubbi’s sister, who was very old and spoke Yiddish half the time. Other than that, I have been blessed with my loved ones being in very good health.

This includes my aforementioned Bubbi, my  mother’s mother. She lives in Brooklyn and turned 93 this past September. 93! She was born in 1917, and after the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, I got worried that the universe was telling me something.

Just under a year ago, I visited Bubbi before I went back to school. I hopped on the bus out there, and we were going to go to her little coffee shop. Unfortunately, her coffee shop was closed. We decided to go to IHOP.

We sat down to eat. I was talking about something inconsequential as we were checking out the menu. As I glanced up at her over my menu, I noticed her arms go slack and her head tilt back. Her eyes fluttered and her arms started shaking.

I jumped up and yelled for a waiter. I grabbed one and told him to call 9-1-1. By the time I turned back to Bubbi, she was looking at me in confusion. “Ben, what is going on?” I waved off the waiter who had the phone in his hand.

I told Bubbi what happened, and after much reassurance on her part, we finished our meal. I called my mom on the way home, telling her what happened. I later found out her pacemaker, which had been put in before, had slipped out of position.

It freaked me out. It was the closest I ever came to seeing someone die. And despite our differences in age, relative health and lifestyle, when I passed out it reminded me of what happened to Bubbi.

Like I have said, I have never faced death, either my own or someone I truly loved. I would hope that when I inevitably do, I will do so with dignity. I have always proscribed to the Dumbledore/Peter Pan view that death is but the next great adventure. It should not be something to be feared, but something to see as just part of the circle of life (oh Mufasa, you taught us so well).

But it’s easy to say that and quite another to live it. How will I react when my mom dies? My dad? My brothers? I don’t know. What if I am told I have a tumor at my next physical exam? Will I try to live my life to the fullest like every novel and story has urged me to? Or will I curl up in to a ball and cry? I don’t know.

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