Before I Die

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on Things to do Before I Die.


Source: Postsecert.com

Man To Man: Things To Do Before You Die


Item number one: Keep in mind that it may happen sooner than you think.

As near-death experiences go, it was nothing to shout about. I'd gone into the hospital one summer morning for a little outpatient surgery. I was having severe nosebleeds the kind where you're actually in danger of bleeding out. The operation was going to fix the problem by clipping the artery that kept leaking. It was such a routine procedure that I'd made plans for that evening.

The anesthesiologist and I did a little ritual bantering. He pretended to laugh when I said, "Make mine a double," and then I was out.

Next thing I remember is trying to sit up in bed and saying, "I can't breathe."

The focus on that one isn't very clear. The next one is sharper: The surgeon is looking down at me, obvious concern on his face, saying, "You've had a cardiac arrest."

I was thirsty, and my throat hurt when I answered, profoundly, "Oh." Then I slipped back into the darkness that had almost swallowed me. Another morning came. I awoke just after dawn and had trouble, for a minute, remembering where I was. Then I saw the catheter tube, the leads from the heart monitor, and the other reminders. I flexed my hands and curled my toes.

I no longer felt the sense of cold dread that had crept into bed with me during the night. No more self-pitying images of my grieving wife and daughters. Just the sweet sensation of being alive at dawn on a beautiful summer morning. Of course, the moment didn't last. My brain stepped in and spoiled everything.

I began thinking.

It took a totally predictable form: Okay, Hoss. You've been granted a reprieve. Now what are you going to make of it?

Like most people, I suppose, I've made the occasional list of "things to do before I die." The lists are aspirational and vain and make a sort of statement about who you think you are and the kind of interesting and consequential life you would have lived and still might if things had been a little different:

1. Climb the Matterhorn
2. Read Proust
3. Have a suit made on Savile Row
4. Drink a Bellini at Harry's Bar
5. Shoot grouse in Scotland on the Glorious Twelfth
6. See a living great white shark

And so forth. But as I lay in the ICU, enjoying the dawn, I did not dream of some mythic climb I needed to make in order to be fulfilled. Still... the prospect of returning to the mountains, any mountains, was sweet.

Some items on the list are there just to make you feel good about yourself. After a certain age, the arithmetical truth is that you've had more than enough time to read Proust. You could have easily knocked off Remembrance of Things Past in the time you've spent watching football on television. Could have learned French and read it in its original language. So it isn't about time. That item is on the list so you can think of yourself as sensitive and literary. You have, in short, been bullshitting yourself.

Of course, when you aren't doing it to yourself, there is always someone around to do it for you. I have actually gone to Harry's Bar in Venice and ordered a Bellini. This is one of those rituals like running with the bulls that has been sanctioned by Hemingway. There are sublime drinking moments in life, and Hemingway rendered them better than anyone. But maybe he ruined this one for the rest of us. When I was there, Harry's Bar was full of loud, international expense-account warriors, and the drink was revolting. Sweet and tasting of, for God's sake, peaches.

I have fonder memories of a single can of cold beer after working all day with a shovel or a chain saw.

My list, I thought, was becoming smaller, and the entrance requirements were getting harder. What, exactly, did I absolutely still have to experience in life, now that I'd been given this reprieve? I was still pondering the question when the nurses came to prep me for a trip to the big hospital up the road, where they would be doing tests and, depending on what the tests revealed, maybe some surgery.

There were two EMTs riding in the ambulance with me, ready to shock me if I went into arrest again. "Had you a little scare, did you?" one of them asked when we were under way.

"I guess."

"Well, don't be too bummed. At least you're riding in one of these and not in the other kind of meat wagon." I hadn't thought about it in those terms, and formed, immediately, the mental image of a hearse. A big, long black one.

"Excellent point," I said.

"Anyway, you don't look so bad," the other one said. "Not like some we get... no color at all. Just gray. Breathing hard but still can't get enough air. You? Hell, you look like you could almost get up and walk to the next hospital."

I didn't feel that good, not by a long shot, but the words did a lot for my morale, and we started talking about other things. One man was a deer hunter, and we talked rifles and cartridges and swapped a few hunting stories. It was aimless male talk, the kind I'd indulged in for hundreds of hours in various barracks, bars, and hunting and fishing camps. The purpose of most of the chatter wasn't to score a point but to produce a laugh, even at your own expense especially at your own expense. The conversation in the back of that ambulance is a far better memory now than the Bellini at Harry's Bar. But you wouldn't write down, on that list of things to do before you die, "Spend a couple of hours yapping in the back of an ambulance with two guys I will never see again."

I pondered that as they wheeled me into the hospital and onto the elevator for the ride up to my new quarters and my first conversation with a heart specialist.

There was some waiting involved. This was, after all, a hospital. So I killed time by trying to refine that lifetime "to do" list. But the more I worked at it, the less compelling the whole idea seemed. When you're in a hospital, just about any alternative seems golden. I actually found myself daydreaming, with pleasure, about making it back to my garden for some full-contact weeding. Get mad at them dandelions.

Going back to Moses, at least, humans have suffered from this compulsion to make lists of things to do (or, in his case, mostly not to do), as though that's the key to harmony and bliss.

Finally, I ditched the ranking of peak experiences and started working on a list of skills I wanted to sharpen. The idea was to be ready for whatever came along. But I didn't want to come up with another bland agenda for self-improvement "lose 2 inches from waistline... write to Mother every week" so uninspired that I'd barely feel guilty when I failed to follow through.

Great minds, of course, had been there before me, and it was interesting trying to recall the rules some of them had come up with. I didn't have a computer or any books, so I had to rely on my memory. Then, for some reason, I remembered novelist Nelson Algren's immortal three rules for happiness:

Not bad, I thought. The skeptical, hard-nosed spirit is just right for a world where everybody is trying to pitch something. The old Boy Scout motto bubbled up from a deep cavity in my brain: Be prepared. Indeed. What more to say?

But there was one list I particularly wanted. I could remember parts of it, but I wanted it in the pure original. If I needed surgery, I wanted to be thinking about the items on that list when I went under. My brother and I had laughed over the list many times when we were kids.

There was a phone in the room. It took a while to break the Byzantine code that got me an outside line. But I had time.

"How are you?" my brother asked.

"Never better. Listen, I know you're at the office and you don't have time for a full medical briefing. But I need something."

"Shoot."

I told him, and wondered if he might be thinking, as I did, that I was delirious. He could have been the guy at Domino's, taking my order for a large with pepperoni. "Give me your number and I'll get back to you," he said. The phone rang a few minutes later.

"I'd forgotten how good this is," my brother said. "The man definitely had wisdom."

The "man" was Leroy "Satchel" Paige, maybe the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball. In his prime, Paige had been denied a chance at the big time because the major leagues enforced a color line: No black ballplayers. By the time he had his shot, he was 42 years old.

Paige, however, was not bitter. Life, he evidently believed, was for living and too short for that other stuff. And when he was striking out major-league ballplayers half his age, a reporter asked him how he stayed so young. Paige replied with the following six rules.

1. Avoid fried meats, which anger up the blood.
2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
4. Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society the social ramble ain't restful.
5. Avoid running at all times.
6. And don't look back - something might be gaining on you.

I didn't have anything to write with, so I tried to memorize the six rules as my brother read them to me over the phone. I thanked him and let him get back to work.

"You hang in there, now," he said.

"Oh, for sure," I said, feeling ready for surgery or anything else they had in mind, including more waiting around. "Don't worry about me." I hung up and, inspired by Paige's example, went back to work on my own list. Threw out the Bellinis and the Proust and the elegant sporting experiences and started at the top:

1. Forget about the dance card. Just keep on dancing...

5 Things to Do After You Die, By Alison Granell, Men's Health

1. Train a Surgeon. Save lives, advance medical knowledge, and avoid the pine box, all by registering with a medical school's willed-body program. Then get in shape: They'll reject your body if it's carrying too much extra blubber.

2. Rest in Pieces. Car crashes can result in brain death, a necessary condition for harvesting organs. Men are frequently the victims, and the donors. Tick the box when you renew your license; more than 90,000 people need organs and that probably means someone you know is on the list.

3. Teach 'em a Lesson. Endowing a scholarship at your alma mater $25K will do it can provide tuition money to an endless succession of students. It might make up for all those 8 a.m. lectures you skipped.

4. Live on in Tradition. The spring hike. Opening-day hooky. The birthday pie. "Traditions help families stay close," says Maude E. Kelly, a human-development specialist at the University of Missouri Extension. "It doesn't have to be complicated to make an impact." Or to survive after you're gone.

5. Host a Prepaid Funeral. Plan and pay for the rites in advance: You'll score a better deal from the undertaker, and you'll earn rave eulogies. Secure a funeral policy with a licensed funeral director and when you're done, you're done.
Source: Geoff Norman, http://men.msn.com/articlemh.aspx?cp-documentid=5066502&GT1=10219

*    *    *



Contact Us | Disclaimer | Privacy Statement
Menstuff® Directory
Menstuff® is a registered trademark of Gordon Clay
©1996-2017, Gordon Clay