WARNORD: Joint Operation Valhalla SITUATION—LT. COL (Ret.) Gordon Cucullu, a decorated US...
Wanting the Enemy to Win
By Kelly Crigger
“When you’re twenty and see a mountain you want to climb it. When you’re thirty you want to own it. By the time you turn forty you want to gaze upon it quietly. At fifty you want to thank it for all it taught you. Yet, as a man changes only one thing remains constant. The mountain.”
-Curmudgeon, Diary of a Midlife Crisis
We all think we’re indestructible but we’re really just fooling ourselves. My dad was sick for a long time. He smoked for 40 years or even more. I don’t have any idea when he started though he did say “we all did it in high school” just before he passed. So maybe as long as 60 years he’d been suckling off the teet of RJ Reynolds. Who knows? And who cares? Doesn’t really matter. All that matters is he’d survived it for a long time. That, diabetes, the Viet Cong, and Agent Orange. None of those adversaries could drag him down for the longest time because he was a fucking badass.
But then they got smart. They got intel from gravity and colluded with time. They teamed up and gang tackled his heart because that was their last option, the scheming cowards. They dragged my pops down into an unrecognizable physical state. The once-proud gymnast and Bronze Medal recipient was no more than skin and bones when I saw him in his last months, making me wish I hadn’t in a way. There are those who say they want to be with their loved one in the final moments no matter what state they’re in, but I’m here to say that’s the folly of the ignorant.
My father was strong and proud for decades. He was as steadfast as Ike who cursed at the unrepentant and scoffed at the unwilling. But in his final year he was a shell of a man. Swollen from the waist down by heart that struggled to beat strong enough to clear out the fluid from his lower half and emaciated from the waist up for the same reason. I gasped when I saw him six months before he died and even started wondering if it was okay to pray for a speedy death instead of a speedy recovery.
The doctors were clear. “He’s never going to get better,” they said. “The damage is done. His heart won’t recover and in turn his lungs and internal organs are doomed. It’s just a matter of time.”
I’m a practical man and know that these things happen to anyone at anytime and to feel like you’re a victim because it happened to you is irrational and silly. I accepted my Dad’s fate and tried hard to deny something that kept pestering at me…a desire to see someone I love die. Illness strips us of the dignity of life and watching a proud man suffer in front of his family was almost unbearable. I wanted it to end for both of us.
I was supposed to do what every good person does-run to the chapel and beg something more powerful than me to stop it. But I didn’t. Instead I wanted him to go and told him it was okay to do so, which made me feel like an unmitigated asshole. We’re not supposed to ask for death or tell someone to quit. We’re not supposed to wish someone to take their last breath, but I did anyway because I knew recovery was an impossibility.
So at what point is it okay to give in and cheer on death? At what point do you go against all you know, stop fighting, and let the cold, icy fingers of the great unknown take you away? At what point is it no longer about the person suffering and more about me because I don’t want to remember him this way?
I want to remember him as the 40-something stud jogging across Pennsylvania so fast that I couldn’t keep up on my Huffy. I wanted to remember him at a family reunion where they celebrated his 50th birthday and sniped behind his back at how God blessed him with a physique that incensed Apollo despite the constant chain smoking. That was my dad. That was who I grew up wanting to be like. Not this shell of a human on a gurney ensconced in tubes, bandages, and a cantaloupe-sized scrotum that I unintentionally witnessed when they rolled him over to change his diaper. This wasn’t my dad. This was someone who needed to leave this life with whatever respect could be afforded him.
I’m not here to champion euthanasia, but I am here to say there is a time and place to want the enemy to win. There’s a moment to hope that nature will end the suffering of a noble person and take them quickly and painlessly. And for those of us who sit by their side, tears filling our eyes, it’s okay to give up on them getting better and just wish they go gently into that good night.
But then the hurting really starts.
Follow Kelly on Twitter - @KellyCrigger