Beav died yesterday at 4PM. Watching the rapid fading of his mind followed shortly by the systematic shutting down of his body under these rare circumstances has created a whiplash in perception.
The mere existence of this mutant protein known as a prion called to mind memories of the mad cow disease upheaval in the UK back in the early 1990s. My recollection is surely exaggerated. I recall that cattle were slaughtered and burned and international trade bans on beef were threatened or in some cases enacted. I have this fuzzy image of bovine carcasses aflame in heaps, and as back drop I see rolling English hills, bright yellow with flax, a tall hedge lined lane cutting across them. Add hoards of peasantry wearing beige and brown clothing that lacks buttons gathered before a home made with hand shaped and kiln fired brick and having thick layers of thatch bundles as roofing. Something medieval in my created imagery.
Identifiable sentience or lucidity disappeared quickly. Three weeks ago today Beav spoke to me, the few words i previously mentioned. The last work he said to me was a word that I would have liked to have been the last word he heard from me. That day as I left his room, with the second cognitive strain I witnessed that day (The first was identifying me by name) , he looked at me, his eyes focusing visibly, like the twisting of an antique hand telescope, he exhaled heavily saying, “Thanks”. And that was that.
His wife told me Saturday she thought that the day after he spoke to me, he had spoken some words to others and that those were the last words he ever spoke. She said that it had been over two weeks since he made real eye contact or had a facial expression that would be indicative of lucidity. So, Beav was gone for awhile from the perspective of others.
The hospice had him sedated heavily because he was a big strong man and kept trying to get up, with an unsettling look on his face. The alternative was restraints. So he lay and snored and with no supportive hydration of nutrition after a time, he lasted about a week.
Since May 22 I have grown to know Beav’s wife as if getting to know her through immersion, like intensive language school. On my third visit and with the air cleared completely and the comfort to speak openly, I recalled something very poignant and talked about it.
Seems some well intended neighbors had to be those people, that being the people who challenged the hospice center and the wife on the beginning of the end being kick started by the last time Beav took food or drink on his own volition.
I clearly see the roughness of the point I made and you will as well. But I am usually good at judging context and risk when I have the notion to say something like this. Rarely are circumstances so grave, however.
I reminded Beav’s wife of something that happened to Beav within the past 18 months or so. Beav was an uber gun enthusiast. But Beav would not, could not ponder hunting, never shooting an animal. He was not anti-hunting, He was not vegan or a militant animal rights person. He did not speak ill when I went off bird hunting, He did not evangelize about hunting or animals as food.He ate beef and pork and chicken and the rest. He was just a regular man who had lots of guns and shot skeet, trap, rifle range, etc. at a club. He was licensed and he carried a pistol in his car. But he could not shoot an animal.
Then one day he was driving south of our town a few miles where there are two lane rural roads and he saw a car stopped in the road and a family, Mom, Dad, some kids, all standing looking in front of the car. Beav stopped, got out and walked up there and found s a deer in the road that the family had hit with their car. It was badly injured and was kicking to scoot itself off the side of the road into some weeds, terrified as maybe we’ve all seen with deer on the road side.
This alone would have Beav in tears. But the dilemma as he recounted this story was a heavy one for him. He saw the distress on the faces of the parents and kids, and he assessed that the deer was dying no matter what. He went to the car and got his pistol. He came back and asked the family to position themselves a certain way, away from him and the deer, and he fired multiple shots into the head of the deer. He then took his mobile phone out and called the Sheriff Dept. and gave his info to dispatcher and explained what occurred, he gave his business card to the Dad of the family, and he left. I imagine his face was slick with tears and that somewhere up the road he pulled off and wept.
That story and the subtle but potentially crude connection to the events that were unfolding in the hospice room was a risky thing for me to bring up. I do not know how she took it. Did she see a metaphor? Or, did she just recall, along with me, an anecdote that was a very heavy recent event in Beav’s life? Regardless she received it very well and of all the anecdotes we shared during all my visits, it was the most poignant.