I live like most folks. I get up in the morning. I grab a cup of coffee
and go to work (writing, my job now it seems). I eat lunch eventually.
Sometimes I need to go to the bank or the grocery store. I catch a movie
or a TV program every once in a while, and I read the occasional book. I
eat dinner. Every once in a while I go out and visit friends. I walk and
play with my dog. And when my day is done I go to bed.
But while all of that is true, and is normally what you may call my
center on the world, it is also true that I have Congestive Heart
Failure. My heart at this point is operating (at last report) at 24
percent. Kind of like a four cylinder engine operating on one cylinder.
In March 2005 my cardiologist said "one year, maybe two." It's now been,
what, about one and a half years. The doctor I have is a good one, in
fact I think a great one. Nevertheless all he can really give me are the
statistical averages for morbidity of CHS, modified by the fact that I
am a former tetralogy patient, which makes it all a bit more
complicated in terms of predictions. In the end there can be no
predictions, which from a personal point of view makes it even worse —
yeah, it could be longer, years maybe, but then it could be shorter.
Which is why I decided to post this right now — you never can tell
what the day might bring. But I thought that it would be better just
to get it out of the way right now.
So that's it. I'm a gonner. I'ma lookin' into the 'ole grave. I have at
least a good number of toes through death's door. I'm not exactly
planning any long projects. And, like the old doctor joke, hey, I'm ugly
Well, that's just great. But the strange thing is, as I said above, life
goes on. It's not as if I sit around thinking about it all the time, all
depressed and everything. Maybe I would if I had some other illness
where I was in pain or non-ambulatory. But I don't and I'm not. Oh,
sure, there are a few pains-in-the-ass associated with my condition
which I won't even go into here. But for the most part you wouldn't
exactly know what my situation is if you were sitting next to me at the
bar having a drink — which I am still lucky enough to be able to do
I will admit that when I was first given the news, I spent about two
weeks running around feeling pretty melancholy about things, watching
birds fly up into the air with Richard Strauss's "Im Abendrot" running
through my brain. But then things just seemed to stretch out a bit and
it was back to life more or less as usual. Today, I had to do some legal
stuff in the way of finally making out a will, which I had been avoiding
— and for good reason because that WAS kind of depressing. But I got
I think I'm lucky. I'm not some poor kid at Shriner's hospital dying of
brain cancer at age eight before they even had a chance for a life. That
has to be one of the saddest things in the world. And like I said I'm
ambulatory and not in any pain really (except a killer toothache now and
then) and I can walk and use my fingers to write my stories. And I have
my brain — a screwy brain perhaps but one that is still functioning on
all cylinders and with all my memories intact.
And the strange thing is that although I'm going to go down the line,
I'm lucky in that it wasn't a quick "three months tops" like it might
have been for some forms of cancer. I can actually go into it with time
to take care of a few things and with plenty of time to think about it.
It could have been very different. I could have simply collapsed on the
street from a heart attack, lying there looking up at the sky with the
knowledge that I didn't have any time to prepare for the end, just lying
there on the concrete saying to myself "Holy crap!" as a crowd gathered
around. And I feel lucky to be able to prepare. Death is the final thing
in life. And, hey, you've only got one chance at it so you'd better get
My spiritual beliefs have helped. I won't go into what those beliefs are
exactly, inasmuch as they are kind of weird and personal and would
really make no sense to people. And in any case, different people have
their own beliefs that they can find solace in, perhaps, at the end.
That's for each individual to discover for themselves.
One thing I did decide to do on getting the bad news, at least after a
certain period of adjustment, was just to write my ass off. And I've
pretty much been doing that. And it has been amazing.
I think it has been kind of depressing for my friends to be around me,
knowing my condition. I'm so sorry for that. But it was either tell them
or not tell them, and I decided to tell them. Maybe I made a mistake. It
wouldn't be the first one.
I don't have any last final words of wisdom to pass on. I think that
most of what I have in me at this point is being put into my fiction.
There are some things of value there, perhaps; though they may not be
there exactly on the surface. And in fact I think that if there is
something there in the way of passing things on, that it would simply be
the act of writing itself, that is the act of creation. One thing I will
say is that I fundamentally believe that the Creator created the things
in creation so that souls may circle back and participate in that ongoing
process — in time, become creators themselves on a cosmic scale. Any other
cosmological or eschatological view to my mind at least doesn't really make
any sense. You only have to look at photographs taken of space — of the
Orion nebula, stars without number — to see the ongoing process of
creation. I think we would be fools to think that it is only about our
own limited world, or that it is only about us. It is about everywhere
and everything and everyone.
To create and to learn is not only my task now, but in a very real way
my task for the future. Eventually, I will leave this place. To those I
love, I say goodbye. But if you ever want to visit me, somewhere down
the line, you have an open invitation to Orion. And don't worry. It's a
big place, Orion, but you'll be able to find me. I guarantee it.