Posts Tagged With: Letting go of fear of death

Day 591: And When I Die

When I was in my mid-teens, “And When I Die” was one my favorite songs.

Here are three versions, from YouTube:   Blood, Sweat &Tears,

(found here )

Peter Paul and Mary,

(found here)

and Laura Nyro 

(found here )

…  who wrote “And When I Die,” when she was in her mid-teens.

Here are the lyrics:

And when I die and when I’m dead, dead and gone,
there’ll be one child born and a world to carry on, to carry on.

I’m not scared of dying and I don’t really care.
If it’s peace you find in dying, well, then let the time be near.
If it’s peace you find in dying, and if dying time is here,
just bundle up my coffin cause it’s cold way down there,
I hear that’s it’s cold way down there, yeah, crazy cold way down there.
And when I die and when I’m gone,
there’ll be one child born and a world to carry on, to carry on.

My troubles are many, they’re as deep as a well.
I can swear there ain’t no heaven but I pray there ain’t no hell.
Swear there ain’t no heaven and pray there ain’t no hell,
but I’ll never know by living, only my dying will tell,
only my dying will tell, yeah, only my dying will tell.
And when I die and when I’m gone,
there’ll be one child born and a world to carry on, to carry on.

Give me my freedom for as long as I be.
All I ask of living is to have no chains on me.
All I ask of living is to have no chains on me,
And all I ask of dying is to go naturally.
Oh I want to go naturally.
And when I die and when I’m gone,
there’ll be one child born and a world to carry on, to carry on.

And when that song is on my mind — like, now — what might that mean?

  1. Lots of people, including those in my therapy groups, have been talking about death and dying this week (perhaps because of Robin Williams).
  2. I am flying on a plane, tomorrow, to Edinburgh, Scotland, with my one child born.
  3. I’ve thought a lot about death, since before I first heard that song (probably because of medical challenges I’ve faced my whole life).
  4. A few days ago, my son said to me, “I’ll probably read your blog after you die” (which I found comforting).

These are all just guesses.

Guesses are going to have to be good enough today, people, because I have to go to work!

And when I end  —  and before I’m gone — there’ll be one photo shown:

IMG_7964

Thanks to my son; to Laura Nyro; to Blood, Sweat & Tears;  to Peter, Paul and Mary; to people who work in groups; to those who deal with death and dying; and to you — of course! — for being here, now.

Categories: inspiration, Nostalgia, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Day 400: Expected Numbers

First of all, dear readers, I want to acknowledge the number of my post today.

I made it to Day #400!   Yay!!

Image 1

When I started this blogging journey, my goal was to make it to Day #365, with no expectations of ever getting into the Four Hundreds.

Which reminds me of a story, ladies and gentlemen. The timing for this story is pretty darn good, since I told this story at my 60th birthday party, almost exactly a year ago.

The story is about ….

Me and My Cardiologist

My cardiologist’s name is Dr. Deeb Salem.  He works at Tufts Medical Center.  Here’s a photo of him:

Image 2

I could tell lots of stories about Dr. Salem, since I’ve been working with him since 1980, when I was 27 years old. I’ve already written about him here, on Day 62 (credited) and Day 275 (uncredited).

I just checked to see if there’s a Wikipedia page about Dr. Salem. I found that while Dr. Salem doesn’t have his own Wikipedia page (which surprises me), he shows up on a page titled How Doctors Think, which is a book by Dr. Jerome Groopman. I don’t want to go too deep into this digression, but I will quote from that page, as follows:

Salem’s challenge

Groopman spends a great deal of the book discussing the challenge posed to him by Dr. Deeb Salem, chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at Tufts-New England Medical Center, during a presentation the author made at their hospital grand rounds. During the presentation, Groopman was discussing the importance of compassion and communication in providing medical care when Salem posed the following question:

“There are primary care physicians in every hospital who speak with great sensitivity and concern, and their longtime patients love them, but clinically they are incompetent–how is a patient to know this?”

This is what I find ironic about THAT:  a lot of Dr. Salem’s patients love him, 3 including me.  But I understand why Dr. Salem may have asked that particular question.  He is not only lovable, he is EXTREMELY competent. Believe me, I know.

Anyway, back to the story I told at my 60th birthday party.

I will set the scene, with the cast of characters. I had invited Dr. Salem to my 60th birthday party and I planned to tell this story, at some point during the festivities.  Soon after he had arrived with his wife, I found the two of them chatting with some other Very Important People in my life. I joined the conversation and told my story, as follows:

When I was 44 years old, and about three months pregnant with my son, my then-husband was experiencing some medical problems. He wanted to spend time, on a Saturday, at the Boston University Medical Library, researching his symptoms. Since I hadn’t brought anything else to read there, I became bored, so I decided to look up the latest research about my very rare medical condition, Congenitally Corrected Transposition of the Great Vessels. 4

And what I found, that day, totally freaked me out.

I found published medical articles that said:

  1. Women with my condition should NOT get pregnant.
  2. Most people with my condition were not expected to live past their 40’s.

You can probably imagine how I felt, reading those, that day.

Very soon after that, I called Dr. Salem and told him what I had found. And I know I was having many feelings, during that phone conversation, including fear. And anger, too. I remember crying and perhaps raising my voice, a little 5 on the phone.  The gist of what I was saying was:

What am I supposed to think about all this? And why didn’t you tell me these things before?  I’m 44 years old and three months pregnant!  Arrrghhhh!!!! 6

And this is how Dr. Salem responded, on that day on the phone with me, in 1997.  He said, very calmly,

Ann, you have an incredibly rare condition.  Every article published about your condition uses a very small sample size. So the results are suspect.

And Dr. Salem told me some specifics about the articles I had read.  While these details were somewhat reassuring, I cut to the chase:

Let me ask you this, okay?  Am I going to make it to age 50?

Dr. Salem immediately said,

Yes, Ann.  I look forward to celebrating your 50th birthday with you.

I immediately shot back,

What about my 60th birthday?  Will you be celebrating that with me, too?

And because I am very observant of subtle reactions in people, I noticed that Dr. Salem paused and took a breath, before responding, more slowly this time:

Yes, Ann. I expect to be celebrating your 60th birthday with you.

And, my punchline, as I was telling this story to Dr. Salem, his wife, and other VIP’s at my 60th birthday party was …

And here we are!!!

But, as usual, Dr. Salem had an even better punchline.  He laughed and said, “I remember that conversation.  I was wondering if I was still going to be around for that.”

And Dr Salem, his wife, and other VIPS in my life celebrated, that day, that we were all very much alive.

So why am I finally7 telling you this story today, dear readers?

Because, tomorrow I’ll be seeing Dr. Deeb Salem for my annual cardiology visit. And it’s the first time I’m seeing him since I left the hospital, a few months ago, after developing atrial fibrillation and being prescribed anti-coagulant medication, probably for the rest of my life.

And, honestly, I have some fears about this appointment.  I’m going to be asking him some difficult questions. And, as always (because I’ll be getting some tests that day, too), I might be hearing some difficult answers.

However, I may very well be catastrophizing, right now:  looking into the future and imagining the worst.

I’ve got an idea!  Maybe I’ll ask him about my 70th birthday party!

Thanks to Dr. Salem (obviously) and to you (of course!!) for reading today.


1  This photo has shown up several times before, including this post and this post.  And in case anybody is wondering…. NO! I have not gotten any further in developing my brilliant product idea of Neat Confetti.

2  I found this photo here.

3  Believe me, I know.  I’ve seen it, over the years, in many circumstances, including a dinner honoring him about five years ago, which I attended (and where many patients talked about their positive experiences of him).

4  See here, for my most detailed blog post about my heart condition.

5  I raised my voice only a little because other people were around me AND I have a little trouble expressing anger (as I wrote about, yesterday). Although, come to think of it, I feel pretty safe expressing all my feelings to Dr. Salem.

6   Or words to that effect.

7   I could have sworn I already told this story, in a previous blog post. But …. NO.

(I’ve forgiven WordPress.  I was angry at it earlier for throwing in unexpected numbers for the footnotes, which I’ve now fixed. C’est la vie, right?)

I’m mad at WordPress again. Unexpectedly, it changed the date of this post from the correct one, February 4, to February 2. While it might be fun to time travel two days back to my birthday, this screws up the order of my posts. The authorities have been alerted. (And they — and other bloggers — helped me fix it, on 2/5.  Yay!)

Categories: inspiration, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 53 Comments

Day 391: What is the opposite of dreadful?

I chose the title of today’s post because:

  1. It’s a question, and I endorse the Socratic method (which is just a smart-sounding way of saying that I like a style of learning and teaching that involves questions and answers 1 ).
  2. I sometimes enjoy intentionally misleading people for a brief time, before explaining things. In this case, I’m guessing that my readers are thinking that this post is about something that it actually is NOT about. (At least, not intentionally.)

(pause, allowing you to think about all THAT)

Anyway, so what IS this post about?  What else do I want to say about the title?

The inspiration for this post was my waking up this morning, realizing that my trip to Panama is about two weeks away, and …

(drum roll)

… noticing that I am not filled with dread.

Right now, I am carefully checking my dread level, to see how much dread there actually is. I’m imagining a gauge, like this:

gas-gauge2

DREAD

And …. I’ve got nothing.

So, while the Dread Gauge above, would indicate being full of dread, or — perhaps — “dreadful”, what’s the word for being the opposite of that, which is what I am, right now?

In other words, would this gauge …..

Image2

be a pictorial representation of being “dreadless”?

Well, my dear readers, you’re probably noticing that I’m playing around with words right now.  And why? Is this avoidance, of something important?

And what does it mean that I want to keep playing with that word “dreadless”? Well, it could just be a reflection of the fact that I made that word up, so I’m naturally imagining different definitions, like this:

(Note: The above video is thanks to Boost467 and contains language meant for “mature audiences.”)

Well, I’m not sure if I’m avoiding something. Maybe I’m just having fun.   But I do know that I DID want to go other places, in this post, including:

  1. I wanted to give myself credit for making progress. That is, I was feeling more dread during the two weeks prior to my last trip, to London. (Check out these posts hereherehereherehereherehereherehere hereherehereherehere, here, and here — written during that two-week period.) (In some of those posts, the dread is more obvious than others. But it’s there. I know.)
  2. I wanted to think about what’s been helping, in making me dreadless, today.

What’s different about my upcoming trip? A few things I can think of, including:

  • This time, I’m traveling with another adult, who is helping with the planning.
  • Since my last trip, I have completed my last will and testament.
  • For whatever reasons, I am more at peace with my own mortality.

What else has been helping me be dreadless?  I’m not sure, but my best guess is the big two, according to Sigmund Freud: 3

  1. Work.
  2. Love.

Okay!  This post is now the opposite of endless.

Thanks to Sigmund Freud, Busta Rhymes, those who dread flying, people who dread death, and — of course! — to you, for reading today.


  1.  Here’s a video (posted by dieterwanke) of one of my favorite tunes — “Question and Answer” by Pat Metheny, whom I’ve written about, here, here, here, here, and here. It doesn’t include the complete performance, but I’m choosing this because it also features Michael Brecker, one of my favorite sax players, may he rest in peace.

  1. Yes, this is another number 1. Yes, I know I already had a footnote #1, above. However,  no matter how I try to fix this, WordPress insists on re-starting the footnote count. And yes, I’ve tried EVERYTHING to fix this (although, as George Carlin might say, “apparently not”).  So, for now, I’m going along with this WordPress glitch. What did I originally want to say in this footnote?  Two things: (1) I’m still thinking of car-related metaphors a lot. Am I driving too much? (2) I found that image here.

  2.  I found that image here, at a place for free stock images. Good to know.

  3. Perhaps you thought this footnote would include data supporting this. It doesn’t. It’s dataless.

Categories: humor, inspiration, personal growth | Tags: , , , , | 26 Comments

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