Slow Death of a Loved One

Death, casket bearer
Photo by noxos @Freepik

Death comes to us all, there is no avoiding it. To some people, death is a scary thought, for me personally, it is only the process of dying that I fear. I hate the idea of dying a slow, and agonizing death as a result of illness, or injury. I don’t think most of us want to suffer in any kind of way, however, some will suffer a long, and lingering death. And sometimes, this is really just not necessary. If we can avoid a long suffering death, we should do this for both ourselves and our loved ones since they too suffer right alongside of us when we pass.

When we are born, God blesses us with one life and one body. He gifted us with a wondrously designed body that performs all that we require to live a healthy life. Yet many people do not appreciate this blessing and proceed to go on and trash their own body through the use of drugs, alcohol, and yes, even through the foods which we consume each and every day. You see, there is a reason that we are told in the Holy Bible that gluttony is a sin. Gluttony is not only a selfish act, it is also harmful to our health. This was as true 2000+ years ago as it is today…

My brother Ronnie on his death bed.
Photo by David Yochim

This past Friday, I had to take a short trip across town that I have been dreading for a few years now. My brother Ronnie’s death was imminent. The drive over to his apartment was only a couple of minutes, but with all of the thoughts swirling around my mind, it seemed it took forever for me to get there, and then it also seemed to be in the blink of an eye since, I wasn’t sure if I was prepared for the coming night.

When I arrived at the high rise apartment building where Ronnie lives, I simply stared at the cold, gray, concrete structure and thought about all the times I had heard Ronnie refer to his apartment as a waiting room to die. Most of the residents who live there have significant health issues, and the truth of Ronnie’s words were ringing true to my ears as I entered the building, passed through the empty lobby, and then boarded the elevator to go up to the ninth floor where he lived.

On the ride up to the ninth floor, I stared at my obscured reflection in the stainless steel elevator walls, and thought about how impersonal this place could be.

Was there an intent in making the walls to where the reflections would be blurred?

I don’t know, but I can see how on one hand this might be just one way to not remind the residents of how far their health has declined over their time living there. On the other hand, they are all still human even though they are by and large on governmental state aid. My friends, if you have never lived in a government supplied apartment in America, you would find yourself living where everything about the place was supplied by the lowest bidder. Everything is cheaply made, and there is no difference in any of the accommodations. Ronnie’s apartment high rise is truly a dismal place to go to wait for death as he had.

By brother Ronnie when he was still healthy.
Photo by David Yochim

Death in government owned apartments can be so impersonal.

Upon entering Ronnie’s apartment, I noticed that most of his belongings had already been removed – his belongings had been given out to some of his friends so that none of what was important to him would simply end up in the dumpster down in the parking lot to be hauled off as nothing more than trash. Never mind the personal attachments to any of it – as I said, dying in a government owned building is about as impersonal a way to go as there ever was…

When I entered Ronnie’s bedroom, he was laying peacefully underneath covers that his friend Tina had tucked him in with. She had been his caretaker, by herself, for quite some time at this point. I will always be thankful that he had her in his life. When I sat down in the chair next to my brother, I couldn’t help but to notice how stained his walls were from many years of smoking Marlboro cigarettes. My mind became awash with so many thoughts where I was wishing that he would have at least given up his bad habits when he had been diagnosed with emphysema. He never did quit smoking cigarettes, nor his occasional marijuana even though he had to take breathing treatments multiple times each day in order to breath.

Between prayers for his salvation, and quoting Bible verses, I talked to my brother. Ronnie could no longer speak, but he could hear me, and he was able to hold one eye open enough to see me as he lay there dying in his bed. About a month or two ago, on top of his emphysema, Ronnie had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. I know that he could hear me and understood the things I was telling him as he would tear up and make attempts to respond to me.

I told my brother how much I loved him, and was so thankful to have had him in my life. Ronnie taught me more about how to be a man when I was a teenager than my father had. I owe my successes in life to him because he taught me to always do everything to the best of my ability, to treat others fairly and with respect, and to always be honest in my associations with others. I could not have asked for a better brother.

Ronnie’s friend Tina and I sat at his bedside through the night – sometimes crying, other times laughing about some of the things he had done in years past. Ronnie was quite the character, who despite never learning how to read and write, was one of the most intelligent men I have ever known. Tina and I discussed fond memories of Ronnie, and we also discussed the bad habits he had over the course of his life that lead to his demise early Saturday morning. Despite the death rattle which came with every one of his final breaths, his death was peaceful. I have a humongous hole in my heart right now, but I will be okay. Ronnie taught me early on that life goes on after death, and to never neglect myself just because life has served me up a kick in the gut.

Ronnie had admitted that he did this to himself.

Habits and lifestyle.

I find it ironic, and not the least bit funny how judgmental people can be, even when discussing the death of others. Yes, Ronnie smoked tobacco and marijuana most of his life. At one time, he also was known to drink hard liquor too. He was a union painter most of his life, and in the early years of his career, it was not uncommon that painters did not wear proper personal protective equipment for the job at hand. I can remember times that he was high as a kite after spraying lacquer without a respirator. The thing is, all the while he knew that this lifestyle was going to ruin his lungs and health. But it was how he made his living, and sadly, he was set in his ways. The reality is that his lifestyle could be considered a slow suicide, he was killing himself over the course of several decades of living, and he knew it.

The cause of his demise was always going to be obvious.

With Ronnie’s death, no one has said anything to me about how he did it to himself. However, I do know there have been, and will continue to be, some who will voice this opinion, which takes me back to judgmental people. I have sat and listened to fat people in the past who, while talking trash about how some people ruin their own lives through bad lifestyle habits, were doing their chattering with a mouthful of junk food.

Here is something that I want all of our readers to consider – it is easy to lay the blame of a persons death on things that are obviously stupid or bad. However, if you ever think about doing this once in your life, or again if you have in the past, some of your own habits that have made you obese are just as stupid or bad. When you feed your body with highly palatable, junk foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition, you too are committing a slow suicide whether you want to admit it or not. Facts do not care about feelings my friends.

Smoking, alcohol, and drugs are obviously harmful to our health. But so is unhealthy eating habits, especially when living a sedentary lifestyle.

Be careful to curb your appetite and catch yourself before you fall into the trap of wanting all you see. Proverbs 23:2

Excerpted from Northwestern Medicine:

Frequent overeating can lead to obesity. Those extra pounds bring additional health risks for high blood pressure and diabetes. And, individuals who are obese or overweight have a significantly higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This occurs for a number reasons.

  • Excess weight can lead to high blood pressure, which, uncontrolled, can cause damage to your heart. This is a major risk factor for stroke, heart failure and abdominal arterial aneurysm.
  • Being overweight increases your risk for atrial fibrillation (AFib), which can lead to stroke, heart failure or other complications.
  • Obesity can cause insulin resistance, which leads to prediabetes or diabetes — a known risk factor for heart disease.

God blessed you with a wonderfully designed and made body. It is your responsibility to take proper care of it!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. I am very sorry for your loss of your brother, David. Please accept my heartfelt condolences.

    1. David Yochim says:

      Thank you Dolly. Happy Hanukkah my friend.

      1. Thank you very much, dear David.

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