Anyone who is up to date with reading The Owl Journal will know that my last entry — The Where and the When — ended with one helluva cliffhanger.
Then again, it’s also entirely possible, if you’ve been reading since the beginning of my hellish journey with ALS, that you did NOT experience the Cliffhanger effect thanks to the equally pernicious Boy Who Cried Wolf effect, as I described it in my May 2021 post titled, The Boy Who Cried Owl.
Either way, cutting to the chase, the end is near, very near, and this time it’s actually going to happen.
I mean it!
Since I’ve been documenting and sharing my thoughts on this journey all along, and since, in return, I’ve received voluminous and deeply gratifying evidence that people are reading and getting something meaningful out of my doing so, I feel a non-oppressive obligation to explain how I arrived at the end, recognized it as such, and decided to take the next step, to cross over.
As mentioned in The Where and the When, upon returning home from my truncated respite stay at the Hospice House, the question of Where I wished to die — Answer: Home — had been finally and definitively answered, and further, though less transparently expressed in the blog post, my return home was unexpectedly accompanied by a peaceful awareness that I was ready, at last, to let go and pass away.
Now, let me clarify what I mean by peaceful awareness.
No, I’m not in some magical blissful state, surrounded by the presence of benevolent angels waiting to guide me to the afterlife. Rather, my experience since determining that I’m ready to pass on has been — like the experience of life itself — bittersweet. On one hand, I still feel tremendous sadness for all that ALS has robbed me of, as well as all it’s about to take from me and from those whom I love. On the other hand, I’m exhausted and simply ready for the fight with ALS to be over.
(Side Note: Back in July 2021, a year to the day after I was told by my doctor that I had six months to live, in a blog post titled Now With 100% More Howard, I described the experience of outliving that prognosis as being akin to watching a baseball game that has gone into many extra innings. Well, perhaps a better sports metaphor would be a boxing match with no round limit, no ref, and, as I write this, as of yet no knockouts.)
And so, I repeat: I’m exhausted and very much ready for the fight with ALS to be over.
This bonus time I’ve had — the days, weeks, months, and now a whole year — included many wonderful moments, celebrations of my life, precious time with family and friends. I’ve had an additional birthday that I didn’t think I’d have, celebrated Laurel’s and Julian’s birthdays an additional time as well, and I had a bonus Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, and New Year!
And yet, simultaneously, each and every day included a brutal physical struggle with the simplest activities of daily living, and the excruciating emotional pain of observing my body and its level of functioning gradually and irreversibly deteriorate.
So now, I’m throwing in the towel. I’m exhausted and very much ready for the fight with ALS to be over.
While a small number of folks closest to me were told beforehand, most reading this will be learning for the first time that I wrote this post before I passed, and that someone posted it for me the day after. It was a very difficult decision to do it this way, but for one simple, practical reason it had to be so: Due to my difficulty breathing, there was just no way that I was going to be able to have a conversation about this with all of the many people I’ve been so blessed to have in my life.
Additionally, as it turned out, over the course of my last week, my body seemed to start giving out on me at an accelerated rate — deeper fatigue, even more shortness of breath, achiness from sitting all day, etc. — almost as if it had received the signal from my brain that I had set a date to die and consequently it got busy doing just that.
Fortunately, because this boxing match lasted so long, I’ve had the honor of hearing from many of you, everything from cross-country journeys in order to see me in person, to transglobal Zoom calls reaching as far as Luxembourg, Hong Kong, and Osaka, Japan, to Likes and comments on Facebook, and I’m deeply grateful for every damned bit of it! ♥
Conversely, after all I’ve written on I, Too, Heard The Owl — a grand total of 138,425 words, including this post — there’s really not much more that I would have had to say in return, had we all been able to have that one last chat, except of course a final…
I Love You!!!
And so, having thus depleted my supply of words, I hereby leave you with the absolute perfect quote from someone else, a quote from a favorite song by a favorite band that I’m sure, for many of you, will come as absolutely no surprise at all.
Fare you well
Fare you well
I love you more than words can tell
Listen to the river
Sing sweet songs
To rock my soul
–Robert Hunter, from “Brokedown Palace“ by the Grateful Dead