Saturday, December 9, 2017

Dying is Easy

Rock Star & Kathy Foss back in the day
I read a newspaper story about a 70-year-old guy ending up in a Miami hospital emergency room (ER), unconscious, his condition bleak. When the man's chest was exposed a tattoo came into view. "Do not resuscitate" it said, with a line under the "not". 
     What a dilemma! Here is another example of man's relentless pursuit of freedom of expression colliding with society's relentless pursuit of a code of standards applied simply, fairly and reasonably to all. Is any message clearer than the one you have needled onto your own skin? How much more concise do you need to be? In Florida the answer apparently is you need to have "Do Not Resuscitate" written on a piece of paper, signed by you and your doctor, and present at the time you begin to die. Even then, medical people, trained to do any and all things possible to postpone death for as long as humanly possible, have trouble believing anyone would chose to forego rescue efforts - even a dying man at the ripe old age of 70. 
Naughty and Nice -- Kathy Foss and me (but who's who?)

     For her 40th birthday my brother Rocky had his girlfriend's name tattooed on his chest. Kathy is a rough and tumble kind of girl, one of the guys when she needs to be, and she is often called by her last name: Foss.  
     This is the name Rocky had imprinted over his heart.  I think the fact that "Kathy" has one more letter than "Foss" may also have influenced his choice.  In any event, Rocky's act of devotion has provided us with lots of laughter, and some sadness, too. Kathy and Rocky are no longer together and through the years the women destined to follow her in and out of Rocky's heart have had to see another woman's name blazed onto his chest whenever he takes his clothes off. I wouldn't like that. Would you? 
     One day Rocky and Kathy's brother Tom Foss were working on the same project in New York. During a break one of the workers asked Tom if he and Rocky were brothers. 
     "No," Tom replied. "Just good friends.  Rocky, show him what good friends we are!"
     Rocky lifted his shirt to display his tattoo, a fat, red heart embossed with Tom's last name: Foss. 
Earth Mother Kathy Foss
Rocky juggling

     Rocky tells me he has no regrets about that tattoo. He still loves Kathy and always will. She is the love of his life. But even a tattoo could not make Kathy stay -- just like that unconscious man's tattoo, "Do Not Resuscitate", did not convince the Miami ER docs of his sincere desire to be spared the drama of bringing his dying heart back from the brink. The man was resuscitated and did survive. But only for a few hours. He died in his hospital bed the following morning and when his heart stopped beating that time, they let him go. Because the ethics committee had met and decided that the man's tattooed living will should be honored. And this, according to other media reports on the story, has set a precedent. In the future, such statements will be taken at skin value. 
     I told Rocky the story and he said that it would be a long and very painful process to have "Do Not Resuscitate" with a line under the word "Not" inked into the delicate flesh of the chest.  Rocky believes the guy meant what his tattoo said, just as surely as Kathy's name on Rocky's heart is a forever true statement of his real love for her. 
The philosopher and the romantic   Michael and Rocky
     My tattoo-less husband Michael says he would be inclined to not honor that man's tattooed message. He would need to know more. That's a Virgo for you. 

       "What if he was joking?" Michael says. "Maybe he was drunk, with friends, and was being crazy and foolhardy; clowning around." 
     "That would certainly be a sad and painfully misguided attempt at humor," I said. 
     "Oh yeah," Michael agreed. "A real miscalculation. But dying is easy. Comedy is hard." 
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