Thursday, March 19, 2009

Natasha Richardson, TBI and Thoughts on Death

I don't want to write about her--but I can't not, because my mind won't go anywhere else. Since word of her skiing accident first came in, I can't not--think about her, that is, in one way or another.

Until the actual announcement of her death late Wednesday, I was traveling the road with her in the Traumatic Brain Injury bus. I guess a ruptured cerebral aneurysm isn't really a TBI, but the the consequences of the two things are the same. Blood in the brain where it shouldn't be. Swelling. Pressure. Destroyed brain tissue. Coma, death. Okay, the last two didn't happen to me, but the first three did, and I guess it's only natural that my mind goes to that experience when I hear about something similar.

It's a part of my life that is uniquely mine and uniquely personal and, in some ways, ever-present. It's there when I'm standing in the shower washing my hair and I suddenly feel like big, glob-like lump at the side of my skull that is the shunt. Damn--that's weird! Then I can't help but creep my fingers down my neck following the tubing right below the surface of my skin where it travels down my neck, over my chest and then--what? I can't feel it anymore but I know it goes into my stomach. Sometimes the tubing feels so discrete to me, I know I could pick it up through my skin. Pull it, and--but of course, I don't. And wouldn't. Still--it's there, a foreign part of me. I wonder when I die what will happen to it. Will the embalmers pull it out? If I'm cremated, will the shunt become a glob of melted plastic among my ashes? Or will my flesh disintegrate around it, leaving just the shunt and my bones for some future world archeologist to discover.

Yes, I think about death. Not all the time, or even a lot, but it's there somewhere in the back of my mind. Maybe because of my ride on the TBI bus I'm not so much afraid of it. I'm not looking for it; I don't want it. But I've arrived, I guess, at that point in my life where I see that--hey, guys! I ain't gonna live forever. That's sort of shocking in a way. Not that I won't live forever, but that there will be a time when I, my particular consciousness, won't be experiencing the world, won't be in the world, won't be of the world.

I wonder if Natasha Richardson had any presentiment of what lay ahead. According to the reports, she seemed to brush off the idea that anything could come of her fall. Was that because at 45, she still felt immortal? I'm sure I did when I was 45. But now--now I know better.

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