Tuesday, September 15, 2015

On death and dying

I just read an interesting article about a 23-year-old woman diagnosed with a terminal form of brain cancer who crowd-funded her own cryo-preservation. She raised $80,000 to have her brain preserved so she could have the chance of another life in the future, when science could either repair her brain and install it in a new body, or upload her personality into a digital consciousness.  

While the science behind the process – where a brain’s intricate pathways are mapped out and preserved and the entire organ frozen until the unforeseeable future when science can use those pathways to program the individual’s personality into an artificial life-form or even perhaps a cloned new self – is not particularly appetizing or confidence-inspiring to me, the story itself, of a young woman facing the prospect of dying young, I can relate to.

While thank God I am not dying (well, not any more than any of us are), I have twice had to consider the prospect of Death’s early arrival. The first time was when I was told I had malignant cancer and the second when I was told I had a brain aneurysm. Each time, I went through that indescribable out-of-body experience of considering the question of “Am I gonna die?” You suddenly telescope up and away from all of your petty concerns like how fat you are or whether you’ll get promoted this year, and look down on your life as outsider. The image you see is a photo where someone has toggled all the way to the right on the brightness/contrast option – the grays amplified to blacks or whites and all of the little things blurred out. You see your life in purely broad strokes.  

Here Lies Zee –

Recent wife to one awesome husband, daughter to two contrary parents, sister to three equally-warped siblings, aunt to thirteen amazing midgets, and friend to a few patient souls. She thought she’d live longer so her epitaph isn’t as cool as she’d hoped. No Nobel, Pulitzer, or even World’s Best Mom. But she did manage to rescue some stray cats and birds, never stole except for that one time when she was five, and tried to give more than she got. The end.

That’s about it. Not very impressive and the prospect of just that being my final tally was actually surprisingly unpleasant. When I was a kid, I was one of those emo, ‘why-am-I-alive?-what-is-life?-I-didn’t-ask-to-exist’ types. I grew up to be a young adult often accused of having a death wish, and agreed I probably did. Even now, as an adult, I’ve never been one to ‘cling to the earth in fear of death’ and have thrown myself out of a plane and into harms way on numerous occasions. I thought I was pretty chill with it. But when Death shows up as a potential appointment on your current schedule, no matter how blasé you think you are, you don’t want to meet him.

It turns out that when I found out I could die from my illnesses, I really didn’t want to. I’d betrayed my cold-hearted teenage self and invested in humans and life. I couldn’t leave my poor husband alone in this world. What would my family do without me to play as negotiator and therapist? Who’d feed the cats? I always said I’d write books but hadn’t found the time! I had too much unfinished business. I needed to do what I could to stick around and thankfully, in both cases, I was able to. My cancer-harboring thyroid was evicted from the Zee Body Politic, and my explosive brain was defused with glue. God gave me that reprieve that so many would and have paid fortunes for, not once, but twice.

So I don’t judge Kim Suozzi for launching that Reddit campaign to raise funds to give her consciousness the opportunity to come back. Because if you don’t believe in an afterlife, and this life is it, well, 23 years isn’t very long to give life a go. It’s just long enough for you to gather the tools and beliefs that will lend some purpose to the decades ahead. In your early 20s, you’re still young enough to believe in your vast potential but not yet have had the chance to test it. Such a short life is not long enough for stress and failure to sap your confidence, or the pains and indignities of old age to make you hanker for that final rest. You want more, and if you don’t have that mortal hope of an immortal soul, well, wouldn’t you want to do whatever you could to get a chance? I hope somehow Kim gets it.


  1. Salaams. May Allah bless you! I can relate in so many ways.

  2. So I typed "my explosive brain" in Google, as I thought that it would make a terrific name for a warped novel, and it turns out that your site flagged up. I have been reading your stuff and I love your style, Zee. Witty, sharp, candid and stylish. Keep up the great work.

    Feel free to stop by my site — LowlifeMagazine.com — one time and say hello.