Recently, I had to face a minor surgery under full anesthesia. Any surgery, minor or not, brings with it certain risks, or so I was told and was given a note to sign my life away and accept full responsibilities for any possible complications or consequences. This part I am always wary about since basically your life will be in the hands of people who, no matter how accredited or professional they may or may not be, are dissolved of responsibility for their actions.
There is the period of serious fasting before the surgical procedure. No food for at least 12 hours before the surgery and only sips of water until about six hours before. More difficult for people like me who like to have more than three meals a day, and I was forced to skip my daily ration of coffee. They give you IV serum, but it is devoid of caffeine, so of very little use for my coffee-craving body.
Then they make you lie down, naked under the hospital gown, and you wait for your turn. As I was idly awaiting my fate, I saw various beds being wheeled past me. The nurses pulled a cord, which opened the door to the operating room, and both patient and bed disappeared within this mysterious confined space as the doors automatically closed.
A little later, I would see a hospital employee take out two heavy black garbage bags. Watching movies and programs about serial killers may have thwarted my mind because I was reminded of Dexter with his packed dismembered bodies. Anyhow, I began to get more curious and anxious about this secret operating room.
As the patients were carted away, and I had eye contact with them, there was a moment of real compassion between us. I felt sorry for them, not in any condescending way, but in the unifying sense that we had a similar fate. For a brief moment, our destinies had been intertwined and become common.
Regardless of the type or severity of the surgery, we would be knocked out and operated upon and faced a certain amount of risk concerning our lives and well-being. We knew that there was a chance we would never wake up, never see daylight again nor the faces of our beloved.
This bond I felt was genuine, the same way a parent will recognize another parent's pain and suffering or the same way prisoners might empathize with each other. And if we extend it toward life in general, we all face indeed the same destiny. We all come from God knows where and go to God knows where.
All we have is the interval between which we call life, but there is always the possibility of death since “no one gets out of here alive.” It is a question of when (time) and of how (manner), but that it will happen is as certain as apple pie. (I have never fully understood that expression, but I did have apple pie earlier today.)
So why not feel the same compassion I felt in the hospital? Why do I forget that we are facing death, that we have a return ticket to this other place we cannot know anything about? How can some believe that they are exempt from this fate simply because they have more money? They may be able to get the best possible medical attention and extend their time on earth, but even they cannot escape the democratic hands of death.
For the rest of us, we prefer not to think about our own mortality because it is a “downer” or “mood-killer.” In fact, most of us are good at deluding ourselves and denying our own mortality until we face moments of real danger that wake us up to the ominous foreshadowing of death.