Chapter 40: Denial, Part II: Terminal Lucidity

IMG_0802From the Stages of Grief

So, there’s this medical phenomenon, terminal lucidity, aka the end-of-life rally, whereby some people with terminal neurological conditions, as they near death, experience a brief period of seeming recovery. Patients who had been suffering from impairments to their cognitive functioning and consciousness either gradually or suddenly regain clarity and the ability to communicate normally. Some who had been unconscious, wake up. This rally can even fool family and friends into believing that the patient will continue to improve and may no longer be imminently dying.

I’ve been, I believe, experiencing a kind of variation on this.

Just about every few months or so, I suddenly emerge from immersion in one of the other stages of grief, usually depression, anger, or fear, and I feel a surge of energy focused on some idea or another I lit upon, an idea intended to distract myself from my impending date with doom, to re-route the life energy that had been focusing on muscles atrophying, on laboring up a flight of stairs, on constantly dropping things from my weakening and increasingly clumsy fingers into something, something either productive, expansive, or just outright fun.

The schemes would form in my head, I’d daydream on them for a couple of days, I’d initially share the idea with one person informally, usually my wife, and since my diagnosis functions, at least initially, as a kind of green light to anything that I really long to do with my limited and precious remaining time and ability, the succeeding week or two would find me consumed with researching, networking, and crunching the logistics.

Each idea — usually something depending on significant assistance from others, most involving travel and navigating in a wheelchair, others more personal and private — would fester and grow into grandiose proportions, ultimately and self-defeatingly becoming so big and unwieldy that I get intimidated by it all and let it fizzle out.

Then, at least until the next harebrained scheme came along, it was back to the other stages of grief, except, of course, that ever elusive Acceptance.


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