Doctor Death is my latest crush and I love him. Of course by “love” I mean the modern superficial version, where one loves finding that buttered popcorn jelly bean in a bag of mystery flavors.
As far as I know, Doctor Death has never actually killed anyone, although I once did long ago or so I thought. I was very young and naive, so it’s hardly my fault that I murdered my first patient. Things happen. I once helped a lovely woman named Delores put on some pressure socks….and then an hour or so later she passed away. Never mind that a doctor had to sit me down and explain that Delores was 98 and that it was virtually impossible to kill anyone with pressure socks, that murder remained a stain on my heart for a long time. I was sure I had killed her, one moment she was alive and vibrant and then she was just gone. Delores died smiling too, her face so at rest, so peaceful, as if she had caught a glimpse of something beautiful on her way out the door.
I met Doctor Death while making him a quad mocha breve with extra sugar. It’s a dreadful drink, sure to kill all but the hardiest souls outright, so I quipped, “I think you need a doctor’s note to order this.” He did not get the joke, he simply looked at me strangely and said, “Why? Have you seen what it’s like to get old? Do you think I want that??!”
Doctor Death gets him name simply because of his wry and irreverent humor about death. He can be quite delightful sometimes, try to speak to him about good nutrition, exercise and he will say, “Whatever for? What do you think you’re saving yourself from?” I once tried to explain to him that it helps to reduce suffering and keep disease at bay and he said, “So you’re basically just a wuss then?”
Doctor Death thinks we should go boldly into that good night, ravished, ruined, completely trashed as if we had been partying excessively and must now drag our hangover into the next dimension, like one might drag themselves into the bathroom to meet the porcelain god.
As far as I know he doesn’t actually drink, although he does seem to have an addiction to raisonettes, about 3 pounds a day. He keeps a handful in his pocket and pops them in his mouth frequently, kindly offering me one. I’ve tried explaining that I don’t like chocolate covered raisins, but it isn’t really true, what I don’t like is pocket lint, especially pocket lint wrapped around something that looks a bit like a rabbit turd. Then there is the matter of his hands, I know exactly where his hands have been. Filthy creatures doctors, really.
I like the irreverent ones, the ones who aren’t afraid to speak plainly, with that wry gallows humor. It encourages the rest of us to laugh, to stop taking life and ourselves so seriously. I sat with someone through yet another Good Doctor lecture, “we need to get your blood sugar under control, your blood pressure, your cholesterol, control your heart..” Control, control, control, and I found myself longing for Doctor Death. Doctor Death would have simply looked at my gentlemen patient and said, “So, do you like cigars?”
Doctor Death gets it, he understands the tragedy of modern life, the way we often spend decades futilely trying to stave off death and sometimes we forget that there is joy to be found in the living too, that our lives need not revolve exclusively around our health problems as if that is going to be a battle we are even capable of winning.
Someone smart once said that the tragedy of life is not fear of death, it is fear of living. To come to the end of the road, well-preserved, having done all the right things, made all the right choices, and now dying anyway, well that is simply too much “right” for me, too much regret, to much of a failure to have truly lived life on the edge, soaring and sailing through all its grand adventures.