Signs of death

I’m back in LA, as of yesterday. It was a long week — a very long week — and I returned home feeling more exhausted than when I left.

But I’m glad I went. My mom really needed me. She handles stress by being rude to pretty much everyone except me, so I had to run interference. I had to talk to the medical staff, fill out paperwork, and explain everything to her. She’s not old or senile or anything, but stress and fear do some crazy things to the body and mind. I was like her hospital Sherpa, except that I was relying on directions from a GPS. That was a weird simile.

One of the strangest things about my trip was that I was surrounded by death. The obvious one was the hospital. Luckily my mom is fine and was never in imminent danger of dying, but the fear looms. Before her surgery, they told her the aneurysm had a .5% to 1% chance per year of rupturing. Since my mom is only 59 and the women in my family are sturdy, she could easily live another 30, which gave her a 15% to 30% chance of brain bleeding. Afterward, however, when they had observed the anatomy of the aneurysm, they reported that it was more like 1% to 2% per year. We didn’t find the latter predictions out until after it was repaired, but all it did was make us more sure that the surgery was the right idea. Anyway, while my mom didn’t die and wasn’t on the verge, hospitals are places full of death. No surprise there. I quickly learned that the hospital where we were played a gentle sound whenever someone started to code, and I heard it a lot over two days.

On Sunday, we were driving the six-plus hours back to my hometown so my mom could rest at my grandmother’s house for a few days and I could fly back to LA the following morning. I’ve never seen so much roadkill in my life. There were racoons. There were large mammals that must have been dogs. There were the requisite skunks. It’s not shocking to see dead animals along the sides of busy highways, but this was unreal. I’ve never seen so many sizable, decimated creatures. At one point, we traveled through a smell that could only have been rotting flesh. It stung the eyes and assaulted the nose. But the final sign of death was about an hour before we reached town. Suddenly brake lights flooded the dark road ahead, and we came to a complete stop for 30 to 45 minutes. We had reached the site of a nasty accident just after it happened, or at least I assume since emergency vehicles started arriving after we did. When we finally passed the scene, I saw a white sedan completely upside down and almost totally destroyed. It was harrowing. I’ve been trying to find out what happened ever since, but either my Google-search skills are bad or there isn’t any reporting.

All summed, I am hearing the universe’s message loud and clear. Death will happen to all of us, so I might as well enjoy the life I have while I have it. Clearly I’m not doing this. I’m wasting a lot of time and energy being miserable, and I have to stop. I have applied for three jobs in the two days since I’ve been home. I mapped out a plan for finishing some prerequisites and then applying to grad school. I even took a practice GRE without studying, and while my score was lower than I’d like, it was enough to get accepted into my program. I’m going to study over the next several months and take some more practice tests until I’m ready to sign up for the real deal. Next semester, I will take two science courses. Yes, I will. I’m dedicated. I’m ready.

And in the meantime, I will find more opportunities for happy. I will spend more time doing things I like and waste less time on things that bring me down. I will make more things, do more (free) stuff, and continue looking for ways to improve my life. I have to. I don’t want to look back on a wasted existence when I’m so young and have so time left to do good on this planet.

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