``Blue bugs, blue bugs! Help me,
Kill the blue bugs! They are
All around me, on the floor,
Up the wall, on the door!
Blue bugs!'' cried
My eighty-nine year old grandmother
To a scared twelve year old me
Who'd come to her cries
And just couldn't see
Blue bugs anywhere ...
In panic she looked with watery eyes,
Old legs a-tremble with fear
At the clean walls, bare floor of her room
Her thin legs swathed in cotton against the chill.
Later, my mother, Christine cried
When grandmother, confined in bed,
Called her by dead Dess's name
And rambled through the past,
Jumbled images cast inside
A swiftly fading frame.
Grandma was long since gone
Beyond where we can know,
And while we took care
Of her body for years
When it failed, we let it go.
Father chose to die at home, of cancer slow
And painful through the end.
But brave was he, the fires of his mind
Burning clear and low, even as his last breath
Sighed from his blued and shrunken lips.
His life-love, Mother, lingers still,
Diminished and aging,
Waiting for his call. In dreams he tells her,
``I'll be back for you. I will!
Fear nothing, nothing at all.''
Her instructions to us are strict:
``When nothing remains but the guttering glow
Of Self, when my body's a husk bearing ashes
-- For God's sake, let me go!''
My wife's a Doctor now, you see,
She cares often for the elderly.
She brings home many a tale, weeping
For her job is full of woe.
She tells of reviving ancient ladies
Filling them again with life and breath.
Full of cancer, demented and frail
Eager to pass beyond this pale
They are held helpless by those who do not know
Life from Death.
She jolts their weakened, failing hearts,
Intubates them, starts a drip to fix
Their body chemistry
Hot wires old motors to one more start
Full of agony.
She used her tools
In a million dollar medi-tech show
All because a ``loved'' one stood close by
And would not let them go.
To fear death is to fear life;
Our culture denies
Death its place, until life itself
Is made mockery. Consider
The truth. A religion that still bears scars
From the loss of political franchise,
That loudly claims in writings revered
That life is a spirit, and flesh
But a treefall in forest
Sustained by the Mind of God,
Insists that the breath
Be maintained in the flesh
Long after that spirit has fled
And God has turned his Mind elsewhere.
This is called ``Respect for life.''
Count the cost.
To sustain the machine,
Riddled with cancer, assaulted by stroke
Demented and in pain,
While the rooms of the soul
Are emptied by nightmares
And the only sounds therein
Are distorted echos from the past,
We spend the wealth that would enrich
The life of a child.
Yes, we are a culture of Ghouls,
Worshippers of Death, not Life
For men always worship that which they fear.
We pay penance for our sins
Repairing the heart and lungs
Rebuilding the kidneys ruined
Nurturing the scrap of liver left
All but destroyed by decades of drink,
And even love and laughter.
It seems that Life is a deadly sin
And painful Death the atonement.
Other cultures, rich with wisdom,
Don't fear Death.
``I have lived a life,''
Say the Hopi, the Navajo
As they embrace Death as a friend.
``Life is the Art of Dying''
Says the East.