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Just A Quick One For The Holidays - Life, Death & Kurt Vonnegut

It's probably not politic to bitch about politics, or anything else, during Christmas Week, don't you think? Happy holidays to all of my subscribers!

I fully expected to have a good Christmas this week, despite my mother passing away two days before. Dying at Christmas is A Thing in our family; Mom is simply the third. My sister-in-law’s sister succumbed to everywhere-cancer in 2006; my father passed away a week before in 2011; and Mom cut it close.

But dying in December isn’t as uncommon as one might think. Facebook friends offered their condolences and sometimes memories of their own families’ Christmas deaths. When my brother and I Facetimed with the funeral director, he mentioned that November, December and January were their busiest months, and it was A Thing for funeral directors everywhere.

‘Tis the season to be depressed and commit suicide, right? Or drink yourself to death, or super-shoot heroin, because you have no family left, or you can’t stand them, or they can’t stand you? Suicide is indeed seasonal, but it’s a myth that it increases during the holiday season. Suicides, for some reason, are more popular in warmer weather - spring and summer.

December-January deaths are attributed to the cold, winter season. People die of heart attacks while overexerting themselves shoveling snow or trying to dig the car out, often exacerbated by nicotine and alcohol. Flu season, the Seniors Killer, is during the winter. People die on the roads when the weather is bad, although auto accidents go up a lot more during vacation season, once again the warmer months. Or they live in those parts of the South that aren’t yet used to the New Climate Change that now dumps more snow on their streets than they’ve ever seen before (or at all).

But my mother passed away not due to Killer Christmas but because a week and a half ago, she and my family and the care workers at her retirement home agreed to put her into hospice. Mom made the final decision, while not having much idea of what was happening as we debated her future. Her hearing is shot and you have to speak directly in her ear.

“Let’s ask Mom what she wants,” I said. “She’s of reasonably sound mind, right?” Everyone agreed she was.

“What do you want, Mom?” my brother asked. “Do you want to continue physical therapy, to try and get better, maybe be able to get around with your walker again?” (Mom broke her hip in early September). “Or do you want to ‘rest’, as you put it to me earlier?”

“I want to rest,” Mom said. “I think this is the end of the road.”

That was a pretty clear signal. She was ready to die. We agreed with clear minds and clear hearts; we remembered the countless times over the decades, even when we were kids, that Mom said she didn’t want to be a vegetable; pull the plug on me! She didn’t want to be kept alive needlessly. She didn’t want to live in a hospital bed. If she couldn’t lead a quality life she’d prefer to die.

Hell, we gave her the opportunity in late October; we pulled the plug on her, with the best data we had available at the time, and she lived.

She would have been 92 in April; she doesn’t owe anyone anything.

She died not because it was Christmas but because when you go into hospice, you give up. My brother called me two days before she died. “Just to warn you, I think Mom will pass in a few weeks.” I hoped to get through the holidays but I’ve been on Death Watch for months, so after I got home from dinner and a movie with a friend, I opened a suitcase and started throwing things into it.

And then the 3:15am call came, Saturday morning, with the news.

I’ll be in the States by the time you read this, and I’m good. I’ve lost my mother at 60; she lost her own at 28, and for my uncle at 23, far too young for people to lose their mothers. But that’s life. So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut said.

I guarantee you, Heaven just became a much funnier place. My mother was famous for her sense of humour, her wisecracks, her ability to lighten up a somber moment.

I just hope she doesn’t tell Jesus that joke about the buxom newly-deceased woman and St. Peter. :)

The year ends on a somber note with a new war in the Middle East (Oh no! Again?) begun with a horrific attack on civilians, with a level of cruelty that must have dead Nazis rolling over their bright red coals yelling, “Dammit! Why didn’t WE think of that?” As if the ongoing Russian war against Ukraine wasn’t already depressing enough. Now the number of dead Gazans far exceeds dead Israeli Jews and those of us of sound mind don’t know who to blame anymore.

It’s the Middle East. And as Kurt Vonnegut said…

But there are silver linings shining bravely through the dark clouds, and the one I hope will eventually shine brightest in 2024 is an end to wokeness. It’s clearly past its sell-by date, like a carton of milk. Social justice, fresh and new, is good for us but at some point it turns stale and then downright rotten. We’ve already explored Everything Wrong With Wokeness this year, maybe now it’s time to explore how we can bring reason, rationality and honest, nuanced discourse to a world sorely in need.

With wokeness can go the Trump cult, and MAGAs, wokies’ equally-toxic brothers and sisters. I’m not at all sure what the next election holds for Trump, the most-indicted ex-President ever, or the U.S. if he wins. Whether he’ll be permitted to hold office. Whether he’ll do it from jail. Whether someone will find an unprecedented solution to keep the least-qualified President ever out of office (again). Which may or may not be the Supreme Court, depending on whether they ever get around to deciding the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision, and pending decisions from about a dozen other states, as to whether Trump can be kicked off a ballot in accordance with the 14th Amendment.

The MAGAs are just as fact-free, reason-free, rationalism-free, or dismissive of universal human rights as the wokies. What can we do to save those who’ve not yet chosen extremism? What can honest conservatives do to bring their family members, friends, colleagues, and associates back from the brink of a wannabe dictator who’s now boldly quoting Hitler? What can honest liberals do? How do we bring back the working relationship between us grassroots and laypeople that once functioned in Washington DC attheendoftheday? We can’t fix Washington but we can fix ourselves. Those of us to the left and right still in possession of our critical faculties can find plenty of common ground, even if we never agree on everything. Maybe we can even begin to identify the best of both worlds, and the worst of both worlds, be honest with ourselves about what we’ve been pushing from our side that clearly doesn’t work, and seeing how we can smoosh the best of the best all together and whether that, perhaps, leads to a better, more equitable world in which everyone is happier, wherever they’re doing it, whatever they’re doing, and even whoever they’re doing ;)

Thoughts? Comments? Vile, computer-melting flames? Let me know what you’d like to see me focus on in 2024, (or less). If you don’t feel comfortable leaving a comment, you can email me at n chardenet at gmail dot com.

And I hope you will have a happy holiday, whatever you celebrate, and if your holiday is over already, hope you enjoy your time off thanks to some other god, and if you don’t believe in that religion stuff, thank Darwin for the time off you got thanks to everyone else’s Imaginary Superfriends. :)

I leave you with my all-time favorite Christmas TV commercial (2007) from Virgin Mobile, about as politically correct in a very funny way as you can possibly get!

Did you like this post? Would you like to see more? I lean left of center, but not so far over my brains fall out. Subscribe to my Substack newsletter Grow Some Labia so you never miss a damn thing!




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