Sunday, September 30, 2007

When I Die

On Friday the nurses and I were laughing hysterically together in the O.R. when I was describing the kind of "memorial" activity I wanted on the occasion of my death. No wake. No funeral (my ashes should have been disposed of privately by then). NO flowers; I still get sick at the scent of lilies because they bring back my grandmother's wake. No morose speeches. No lugubrious music. I want an ice cream sundae buffet.

There have to be waffle cones or waffle bowls available, the home-made kind, the kind you can get at Ben & Jerry's or used to get at Swensen's. I also want sugar-glazed, chocolate-frosted Krispy Kreme doughnuts, strawberries & cream, and Godiva chocolate there - all food to die for and die from - as the only reminder of DEATH in the room. I want 80's music blaring in the background (& if there's room for a Christmas area, where classical Christmas carols can be playing & some Christmas decorations up, I want that too). I want any irreverent thing I've written printed out in enormous letters and plastered on the walls. Maybe a children's book corner, movie marathon showing happy favorites like Elf (like, in the Christmas area), and a slide show of pictures. Goodie bags for the guests, of course, perhaps with recipe cards of our family favorites. There should be "real" food too - enough rouleaux from The Elephant Walk restaurant (or equivalent item) to choke a herd of elephants, mango rice from a good Thai place, a selection of Filipino and French eats, but not too much broccoli or garlic because I don't want anyone getting too gassy at my party, even if I'm going to miss it. That's the sad part for me: I'm gonna miss it! The nurses suggested I have a dry run so I can at least enjoy it once and fix any glitches. :) [Incidentally even our patient got in on the fun - she arrived in the O.R. just in time for it, joined the discussion right before I anesthetized her, and literally woke up from anesthesia saying, "You gotta have 80's music!" So that idea came from her!]

(spring rolls Photo: gildemax)


Last night one of my ninety-something patients developed significant post-op delirium and got combattive with us in the recovery room. Some elderly people are what we often describe as "pleasantly confused." Then there are those who are pleasant during the day but get downright nasty when the sun goes down, through no fault of their own. They swear, bite, punch, threaten. This is the type we were dealing with, and I always feel like a failure when this happens, but the truth is that anesthetics can do this in the very old - scramble the mind, or perhaps bring out the deep, dark side of it - and I always warn loved ones about this prior to surgery.

I thought this was interesting: when the nurse asked this patient from last night why she was so mad, the patient pointed to her chest and yelled, "Because I hold a lot of pain in here!" No, we didn't work her up for chest pain or a heart attack; there were many other signs that she wasn't referring to that kind of pain. I truly think she was referring to something less tangible.

It made me think: angry people really are hurting somewhere in there, and all it takes is a little disinhibition to reveal that underlying lack of peace. It also made me wonder: what if I'm the mean and nasty kind of demented when I get old, and sunset reveals my true nature to be a wad of resentment and bitterness? I confided these concerns to my husband, who'll be the one dealing with the mess when we get there, and he very kindly said, "No, you'll be sweet when you're demented, and still adorable." I dunno...I have some mean thoughts and resentments in there...they might come out...So my project now is to try to expurgate those from my psyche or whatever, and try to make my "true self" sweeter (at which I failed miserably last night when I got annoyed and snappish in the O.R. after hours and hours of annoyances and challenges ... sigh ...).


rlbates said...

T, I've always thought mean/angry people had some hidden "hurt" or "pain", too.

On the other subject, I love the idea of an ice cream social or party when I die. I don't want a funeral either. I think it has to do with going to my first when I was 8 yo (my dad's).

Have a blessed day!

Anonymous said...

I've often wondered if all my pathetic evil thoughts ... ones I don't even LIKE having but which surprise me (and disgust me) by popping into my head will suddenly pop out of my MOUTH under anesthesia or if I suffer from dementia.

When my father was diagnosed (perhaps misdiagnosed ... we never found out) with Alzheimer's he said he was worried that he'd become a "mean bastard". Then, when he has his stroke, he said -- or tried to say, as his speech was quite impaired -- that the stroke was just what he'd always feared. I reminded him that no, his big fear was that he'd become mean, and that that had never happened. I knew it couldn't happen with my dad ... he was such a loving guy and mostly just wanted hugs and kisses!

Me? I think I have mean thoughts. Well, okay, I know I do. I think I harbor resentments. And I guess I should work on this now because I do fear that it will all come spilling out someday.

As to the rest of your blog entry ... so no body to science for you, eh? I wonder how many in the medical profession don't give their bodies up to science, knowing what gets done to them! :-)

And ice cream? I think I'll have a chocolate fest myself! Or I guess it won't be ME having the fest ... but anyone who comes to say "bye".

But maybe a big double reed fest can be thrown in as well. Just think; a bunch of oboes and bassoon honking me away. Woo hoo!

T. said...

Patty, I have a sheepish confession: would you believe I actually forgot about that option when we were planning out my little dessert bash there?! Silly me!

The anatomy course was a positive experience at my med school, with an atmosphere of respect and appreciation, thanks in large part to our professor Dr. Matthew Pravetz, who met with each donor before his or her passing. If I knew that a particular med school conducted its program the way he conducted ours, instilling in and expecting from students no less than their professional and moral best, than I'd certainly talk it over with my family and consider donating. Although I guess there's no real way to guarantee the character and attitudes of the actual individuals who end up using the body...ultimately we end up having to "trust the system" and take a leap of faith (and hope, and love).

Dr. Deb said...

I'm totally with you on the ice cream buffet. I want people indulging and telling fun stories too.

Bardiac said...

For the reception at the church after my father's memorial, the folks in charge set out bowls of Hershey's Kisses because he was well known for sharing chocolate.

I think a big sundae party's a great idea!

MH said...

Please tell your hubby to invite me to the funeral. I wouldn't want to miss the buffet. As to those evil thoughts, well they're just thoughts dear so don't worry about it

T. said...

MH, I wouldn't DREAM of not inviting you to the celebration of my demise, but I think I'll show up to yours in a red dress first! :)

(For anyone who might be shocked reading this, MH and I are "buddies-who-banter." The other day, regarding a now-smoothed-out tussle over Halloween and our call schedule at work, he said to me, "So what are you gonna go as - a WITCH?" I laughed so hard I could barely breathe inside my surgical mask. My husband laughed even harder.)