Time of Death

by Chris de Serres

Time of Death is a new Showtime series that follows around people who are terminally ill and documents their dying experience.  It’s something we need to see in western society because our culture doesn’t really equip us to deal with dying.  One mother Maria has breast cancer.  She has two teenage children and one adult child who she tries to ‘protect’ by withholding the seriousness of her condition.  This is classic western style.  Talk about it as little as possible.  Hide the sickness. Hide your vulnerabilities.

We aren’t equipped for dying.  We don’t know how to accept the dying.  It is always happening.  We are always dying.  It’s inescapable.

Michael is dying from cancer and he has accepted his fate, as he smokes a cigarette.  His father Tim goes through the entire process rather stoically.  Admitting as he spread his son’s ashes into the sea, that he hasn’t cried once.  Yet, that sounds so normal to us.  To hold it in is par for father’s and men.  I know why he hasn’t yet I don’t understand it.

Maria was laying in bed, getting her chemo treatment.  Her adult daughter came in and got into the small hospital bed with her.  I thought of how often I would get into bed with my mother, watching the television.  She would put her arm around me and kiss my forehead.  I would fall asleep until my father came in to evict me at bedtime.  The comfort they provide is always missed and can never be forgotten.  When feelings of home and simple acts of comfort are taken away a sense of ourselves dies with it.

Michael lay in his bed actively dying.  The noise of the machines helping keep him alive is deafening.  I felt sorry for him.  For the fact that he is dying and for how he is dying.  I don’t want to die that way.  I imagine being somewhere quiet and serene.  Yet, dying is not neat and clean.  It’s not something we can control.  It is the absence of control.  The sooner you let go of control and all the seemingly important things about life the sooner you learn to experience dying.  Maybe we all just need a moment to consider how silly our lives were.  How we focused on the wrong things for way too long.  We lost friends and loved one’s for stupid reasons.  How we raged against the world.  In death we learned we never really had to.  All the lessons you learn in death that are so out of reach when you are not forced to face it.

Death shouldn’t be frightening.  It shouldn’t be mysterious.  We shouldn’t be forced to experience it.  It’s a part of living.  How can you ever know what living means if you never prepare for dying?