My grandmother died on Tuesday. She was my mother’s mother; she was 84; she died from Parkinson’s. The disease was diagnosed too late and medication didn’t help. So simple is death, it just cuts you off. My grandmother died in her sleep and hopefully didn’t suffer. Suffering’s left for us, those who still crawl the Earth.
Suffering – and helplessness. I was helpless to do anything for her. This makes me feel now even more completely useless than ever before. On this little planet, all beautiful and green and blue, all we do is suffer and inflict suffering, and seem helpless, too, to change that. Even writing this right at this very moment seems quite absurd to me. But the truths about some kinds of suffering are as simple as death is. Illness, for instance, represents a problem that can be solved. Humans have fought diseases like tuberculosis and have gained the upper hand. These days, even HIV/AIDS does not immediately mean a quick and brutal death. Unfortunately, though, only for those who can afford the respective treatments. Staying alive means money and access to medical care and to the products of chemical multinationals. Staying alive also means being useful as a worker to someone or, more often, to some coldly calculating organization; being able to still produce or serve and thus enrich above person or organization. If you’re over 70 or 75, no one gives a damn. You become useless as a worker. Why invest money to fight and finally defeat Parkinson’s then? Most of the new cases of the disease happen to people over 50. There’s medication to keep you going for perhaps another 10 or 15 years – as long as you’re useful. You were over 65 when the first symptoms appeared? We’re sorry, you were going to die soon anyway. You were quite young, like Michael J. Fox or Muhammad Ali, when it happened? We’re sorry, it’s just bad luck, nothing personal. What’s more, Parkinson’s has never been the only disease to be “treated” this way. Little money can be made by selling medication to the elderly – they’re either currently well insured, or poor and useless as customers (like most older people around the world), or are anyway dying of some barely investigated and deadly disease. Just like my grandmother.
She was the person with whom I spent a lot of time during my childhood. She taught me a great many things about this world. She taught me about right and wrong. She was one of those people who never give up and never surrender, and who can impart that strength and determination to others. I was very lucky and very honoured to be her grandson – and I still am. I miss her. And now there’s nothing to ever be done to bring her back. Instead of investing time and money into fighting diseases, the insane people of the world continue to invest in killing each other over land, over money, over gods and do not understand that losing any living person – anyone – no matter how young or old, how beautiful or ugly, how rich or poor, how clever or stupid, how real or how impossible, is an irreparable and grievous loss. We are only stronger when united in our similarities and our diversity; letting these be diminished and twisted to destructive purposes makes humanity as a whole diminished and twisted. We are making ourselves useless.
Grief doesn’t help in any of this, though one cannot help but grieve. Time, in the end, heals nothing, especially when others fall into the same tragic situations and inevitably grieve for their lost ones. Time only creates distance, distance from the gaping holes in our minds left when we cannot save our loved ones from meaningless deaths. And the cold, empty distance is the void that remains in the end of all ends.