David Bruce: Be a Work of Art — Death


• In 1986, nurse anesthetist Kathleen Hanna assisted in an operation on a 47-year-old man who had suffered from an acute myocardial infarction. He was nervous about the necessary upcoming operation and talked to nurse Hanna about his 13-year-old daughter and how much he loved her and the other members of his family. The operation went badly, and the physician realized that the patient needed to be made unconscious for the rest of the operation. The patient then told nurse Hanna, “Please tell my family I love them.” The patient died on the operation table, but nurse Hanna wrote later, “I went to his family after the surgeon had spoken with them and gave them [the patient’s] message. These were the last words he said — his final thought. The family said it gave them some comfort, and I was glad to be able to deliver it to them.”

• Wisdom can be ancient, or modern. This ancient wisdom comes from the Ecclesiastes Rabbah 5:14: A fox wanted to eat some grapes in a vineyard, but he was unable to squeeze through a narrow opening in the fence. Therefore, he fasted for three days, and once he had slimmed down, he ate his fill of grapes. However, the fox discovered that he was unable to get out of the vineyard because he was too fat to squeeze through the narrow opening in the fence. Therefore, the fox again fasted for three days so he could get outside the vineyard. Once outside of the vineyard, the fox turned around and said, “Vineyard, vineyard, how good is your fruit! All that is within you is beautiful and worthy of praise. But of what use are you? Just as one enters you, one must come out.” As one enters and leaves the vineyard, so one enters and leaves life.

• In 1975, nurse Kelly Gaul had an elderly patient who was dying of lung cancer and who often had radiation treatment. However, one day he said that he did not want to have the radiation treatment: Being moved was painful, and the table he was put on for radiation treatment was hard. He wanted to get cleaned up, wear clean pajamas, and spend time with his wife. Nurse Kelly told him that he could skip the radiation treatment — although the radiologist was furious — and she got him cleaned up and put clean pajamas on him. He spent time with his wife and died that afternoon. She then sat quietly with his wife, who held her hand. Nurse Kelly writes, “Somewhere, somehow, I, like so many other nurses, decided that patients and moments were what mattered.”

• Henry Rollins says that he is not especially brave, but that he does not have much fear. While he was in Iraq, he was in a building signing autographs for the troops. Bombs started hitting the building, and a soldier told him, “Sir! You’re in a fortified building! You’re in no danger!” Mr. Rollins said, “Cool!” Then he signed more autographs. The soldier asked him, “Sir! You’re not scared?” Mr. Rollins replied, “Oh, I’m scared. I just don’t really care when I die.” He made an impression on the soldier, who said to him, “Sir? Uh … that’s really f**ked up.”

• In the Old cemetery in Washington, New Hampshire, is a grave monument that says, “Capt. Samuel Jones’ Leg which was amputated July 7 1804.” The rest of Captain Jones is buried on Rhode Island, where he moved after having his leg amputated.

• As a newspaper reporter in the early 20th century, Ben Hecht witnessed many executions — all hangings. He remembers at one hanging, a condemned man was asked if he had any last words. The condemned man replied, “Not at this time.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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