Thursday, March 12, 2009


Kenny Rogers May Not Be Entirely Right This Time

I love Kenny Rogers. He's a musical god, with the voice of a man who has a long, fat cock. He sings sensible songs everyone can relate to, with a tune. However, I do not completely agree with his views on death. "The best you can hope for is to die in your sleep". It is always going to be a popular option for people contemplating end of life choices, but it won't work for absolutely everyone.

There's a lot of talk at the moment about this young woman, Jade Goody, who is terminally ill with cervical cancer and living out her last days very much in the public eye. Lots of yappy hacks have been all: "how vulgar, how like her to court attention and make money" about it and some other ones have snorted worthily about how great it is that she's raised the awareness for the new HPV vaccine and has encouraged lots of slags to go and get their smear tests done. I went and had a smear test - not because of Jade Goody - but because I got a letter telling me it was time I went. I don't mind smear tests at all. After an adolescence as a bit of a goer, and three vaginal births, I don't give a shit who puts what up my slot - I've had all manner of people stare at it over the years, a small poke with a glorified chopstick is low on the scale of fanny insults. But I get that a lot of women make a terrible fuss about showing their vag to a stranger and letting them put metal in it. The frigid dykes.

What interests me about Goody's death in the spotlight, is the squeamishness of the general public: "Enough is enough!" It's an English thing. English people are weird about death - they hide from it, put the lids down on their coffins, don't let children go to funerals, expect people to grieve quickly and quietly. Dying is usually done in hospital, people are discouraged from visiting and are shooed out quickly, after death. You never get a good look at actual dead people, or people dying on the telly either - for instance in Russia, I remember watching their version of crimewatch - on at teatime, complete with quite gruesome photographs of corpses that had not been identified. No one thought that was strange at all. English people don't like to look at real people's dead bodies - anybody working with the dead is viewed with great suspicion and fascination - hence all the pathology drama shows -experiencing closeness to death or dying is only acceptable when one stage removed by theatre.

One of the few truths accepted by every human belief system, is that our bodies go through a process of shutting down and finally shutting off. The question of how that process is handled, is what involves the complicated taboos in different societies

Years ago, giving birth was put in the same queasy category as dying - women were hidden away, before and after birth, and expected to get on with it and not to give too much away about the whole performance. It has only been in the last twenty years that people have started to take a more active role in planning their births - home or hospital, how much intervention, how much pain relief, who is present. Of course, the best made birth plans often give way to emergency caesarians and many wannabe hippies wind up growling for pethidine and hurling foul abuse, in a way they never could have planned. But what matters, is the labouring woman's sense of having some control, however little any foreward planning relates to the actual outcome. The fact that a patient's wishes have been acknowledged and accommodated to the best of the caregiver's abilities, is something that lowers anxiety and makes the birthing process less unpleasant.

In the same way, anxiety about death can be reduced by letting patients with terminal illness make choices about their palliative care, about where to die, whether to have an active death where they remain unsedated for as long as possible, or to slip away in a fug of morphine. But the squeamishness and unspoken expectation that the dying will just do it gracefully and quietly in a side room, with as little fuss as possible, is something that makes dying people feel a nuisance if they want to deviate from the norm (stay in hospital, it's nice and clean, people come and visit and say goodbye etc etc). I'm not saying that everyone wants a "natural" death, or that hospitals are wanton pits for following Hippocrates and shoving drips in the dying to keep them going for a few hours more. The problem is that dying people are weak and tired and find it hard to be forthright about their wishes when they are in extreme pain. They need support from their families and to know that their death choices will be honoured and communicated by their next of kin. Unfortunately a lot of non dying people don't want to think about death, and get upset when confronted by it, and end up making someone else's death all about them. This then makes the dying person feel mean for wanting particular things, and they feel an obligation to protect their families from the whole dying shebang. But that's wrong - at the end of your life you should be able to do whatever the fuck you want. That's your time, to be an utterly selfish cunt, and everyone around you should shut the fuck up and do what you say. You're the daddy. Of death.

I've heard people say they would find bringing a dying relative home "too upsetting". Not as fucking upsetting as stopping living though, is it? Grow some balls, people. Watch this woman die and learn from her - not just how to prolong your life by keeping an eye on your flange, but how to have the best death you possibly can. That is all

Twala: What fate hast thou for me, O King?

Ignosi: The fate thou gavest to my father, whose throne thou hast sat on these many years.

Twala: It is well. I will show thee how to die, that thou mayest remember it in thine own time.

He was an evil bastard, Twala, but would you have had his babies, Noreen?
Of course the dying fuckers should feel like a nuisance and not bother anybody. They may feel bad about that, but soon enough they'll be dead and won't have to worry about it. Fuck 'em!
You've got me wrong, GB - I wouldn't ride him, I'd be his Gagool. As wikipedia describe her "an evil, impossibly ancient hag". Like the Sybil - but not in a jar and with real power. Ooh, that's making me horny...
I find it terribly depressing that I may `have something to learn' from Jade Goody. I really, really fucking hope not
And what will Jade be doing next Christmas? Babysitting David Cameron's son.
You never cease to amaze me. Who would have thought that one could segue from talk of your well-used salmon purse to a homily on your (humanist, I think) view of dying in less than five hundred words.

I agree entirely with your thesis that (in England), “You never get a good look at actual dead people.” I keep mine in the cellar.
Wise words, Noreen, and delivered with style and compassion. I'd pay my license fee and maybe that of my neighbours if Radio 4 would let you loose on Thought For The Day.
Thanks for that, Noreen - I watched my wife die in hospital back in November, and felt privileged to share the last hours of the woman I loved.

Our sentimentality about death has, I think, its roots in the fucking awful mawkishness displayed by politicians and public alike back in 1997 - I remember waking up and turning on the telly, and being quite upset until I realised that it wasn't the Queen Mum who'd died, but more than that I remember that disgusting fraud Blair harping on about 'the people's princess'. What a git that man was, and what damage his syrupy sentimentality did to our country.

My wife and I had talked about what should happen if she got too ill, and I followed her wishes to the letter, including a funeral service that most would have considered unsuitable (Green Onions for a send off - you should have seen some of the faces!)

Great blog - more bile please :o)
jealous of those who do better in life than you....I bet you live on the dole.
Apropos, thank you, both for your kind words and for telling it like it is at the coalface of death, so to speak. I am sorry for your loss - it is never easy, is it?

I think your wife's choice of music was excellent. I like a bit of R and B myself, and my children are already worried that I'll be carried in to the church to the strains of Shabba Ranks.

Boyo - I fucking hate Radio 4 . I'm not a fan of radio anything really - it gets on my nerves, but thank you anyway

Anonymous - did you mean that mindless comment to appear on this post, as it doesn't really make any sense, does it? I can see where you're coming from (almost) if you meant it on the post about not liking stuff - although it would still be weird, as I wouldn't be jealous of people who "do better in life" as I expect those people often have masses of stuff, and I get stressed by the responisbility of ownbership. Tell you what - I'll have a look around the last four years of blog posts, and see if I can find one that your moronic insight fits. Deal? In the meantime, why don't you try and find something on the internet you like. Go on youtube and watch video clips of people buying really expensive shoes, or have a browse on ebay for four figure watches. I bet you'd love that, you unimaginative little vagworm
A friend of mine who works in makeup says Jade has lovely, lovely skin. I am so jealous
Flippin' Nora, Its 'splodey pope!
Noreen, I've been quietly reading you for years. I've always enjoyed what you've had to say, but I think this is the most fucking brilliant thing you've written.

I was diagnosed with cancer last October. I probably won't die from it, but still, no guarantees. I'm 5 months into 18 months of treatment to try and make sure I don't die from it, and I can honestly say that what you've written goes for people living with cancer as well as dying from it. You've put it all so well. Better than I ever could. The hardest thing I've had to do while facing my own mortality and being sick as a dog while doing it, is to keep a brave bullshit face on and pretend everything's ok because other people can't deal with me being sick around them.

Anyway. I don't want to get mawkish or me me me. Just wanted to say 'well done'.
Hello Hairy!

I am sorry to hear you are ill - that sucks, to put it mildly, but it sounds like you are being very brave and positive, which is the most important thing. You are right, in my post I was focussing on people with a terminal diagnosis and how they need support, but the same does go for people living with cancer. "You are not your cancer" seems to be the official line designed to help patients be postive about living with the disease, but I always like to differ a little and say - actually, you fucking "are" your cancer, if you need to be. And quite often, you will need to be fully absorbed in being ill, and trying to get better, and not have the time for other people and their trying to make your disease about them.

That was quite garbled, but I think what I am trying to say is "Hairy is right" - you tell those moaning minnies to fuck off and get their own serious illness, and you keep up the good work of keeping and getting well.

Noreen, I love you but for once I don't agree. Your bits might be wide enough after three kids, but mine aren't. Smears are painful if you're tight / haven't spawned. On the other hand, they're less disgusting than sex with my ex-husband. But only just.
As a palliative care worker am I wrong to insist that I receive my well-earned remuneration on a commission basis?

Kenny is not as well endowed as you suspect. Why do you think Lucille left him?
Why wouldn't you want to bring a dying relative home? Dying in a hospital should be more upsetting.

I like your writing style:)
Who the fuck is Jade Goody?
Harden up, Hermes. I love getting on my back for the gyno... it's my only chance to dabble in lesbianism these days.

well put, Noreen.
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