notes on living

I find that for most of my life I have taken breathing for granted.

Today I sat with my great uncle in hospital just listening to him breathe, there was a machine beeping (not in the Hollywood heartbeat way) in the room and there was the desperate rasping sound of him not doing anything but attempting to just keep breathing, he was on so much morphine that he couldn’t communicate and I don’t know whether he was awake or not or whether he could hear me or not, so I sat and I held his hand and I told him about what I’m working on, and about my brother and my sister and about the weather, about the books I’m reading, anything, everything just in case he can hear me. So he knew he wasn’t alone. I talked and he breathed.

In some ways I find it embarrassing to say, and I don’t mean it to sound like I am thoughtless or cold or cruel. But I had a moment when I sat there in silence listening to him breathe and I thought to myself, ‘ this is a unique experience to not only observe someone at the end of their life, but also all of the people surrounding them’.

I am not uncaring, I love my uncle very much, but the scientist… or psychologist in me was intrigued. My main observation was the ability of us, to swing incredibly from one emotion to another, and normally the more intense the emotion the faster the swing. One moment we’re crying and we can be laughing before our tears have dried.

The closest thing I can compare it to is like feeling sick, when I feel sick I try and concentrate on something to get my mind off of how I feel, and it generally works so well that I forget about it, until I stop working, just for a moment, and then I feel ill again.

I think that’s why in Films and Theatre silence is the most tragic sound of all, because it’s what’s not being said that is suddenly loudest of all.

My grandfather said the most interesting thing to me about a year ago when his best childhood friend died that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. What he said was ‘At this age it’s not sad when someone dies, it’s sad when we get left behind.’

This got me thinking about the differences between life, and living and this lead me to the people we are (yes again). I think I understand what my grandfather was saying, if we are who we are because of everyone else, when they’re all gone, what is left of us?

Then I thought about what I thought was the lighter side, which is, if everyone we meet affects us, then when they’re all gone we are all that is left of them. I find that a much more tragic thought.

I wish I had a better way of wrapping this up, as it’s all gone a bit depressing, tonight I will sleep, and while I’m not thinking about it, I will breathe.

If Uncle Ike wasn’t asleep nor awake in the daytime, what is he now? Is still concentrating so hard on his breathing.