Thursday, 20 March 2014

What If Games

Understandably, our family is engaging in playing through multiple alternative endings to my father's recent death. The starting point is a pretty miserable last year that ended badly; the question is what choices could have been done to prevent the final outcome or at least improve my father's well being. Would my father be alive and kicking now if we were to choose on Medical Operation B instead of Medical Operation A? Everyone knows there are no winners in this game and that it all amounts to nothing more than wild speculations, but that eternal need for closure trumps over most logic.
The process of family and friends gathering together for post funeral grieving turned out to supply us with interesting insight. Given the theme of the event, people tend to be more open than they normally are towards sharing their personal experience. What we learned from this sharing is that there are a lot of people suffering through severe health issues out there.
Most interesting, though, was the personal story of a friend who told us of his adventures with his aging father. As fate would have it, both fathers suffered through incredibly similar circumstances. Both had the same background condition, both suffered the same injury that triggered the whole cataclysmic chain of events, and both even ended up at in the same old age care institutions at the same time. The only differences? That friend's family chose Medical Operation B instead of Medical Operation A.
Pouncing on this information, we were extremely interested to know what the outcome of B instead of A is. Alas, the results are not as clear cut as we were hoping they would be, not to mention not that nice to hear of in general: the father is alive, yes, but his quality of living is far below what I would consider a life worth living.

Naturally, this grief acquired insight got me thinking. Now I think I can summarise my conclusions at the bullet point level:
  • Nature is a harsh mistress. Calamity is just around the corner for each and every one of us. Modern civilisation protects us from nature's cruelty most of the time, but eventually the inevitable will catch up on us.
  • This old age thing is serious business. Things we would totally disregard in our younger years can have huge implications once one passes the mid sixties.
  • As much as we would like to think that we always have choices between good and bad, that is not the case. It is just a matter of time before all the choices before us are bad ones.
  • It is also just a matter of time before control is taken away from us. We could lose control only briefly and die of a heart attack, we could - like my father - have a year from hell, or we could lose "it" and live more like automatons for decades. Regardless, at one stage or another we will no longer be in control of our lives.
What do I make out of all of the above? That we should cherish and make the most of each and every day when we do have control and when things do work out our way, because this is the only break we will ever get. There are no save games and no additonal lives to count upon in case of a mistake; there is just this one, and we should make the most of it while we can. The time is now.

I will leave you with a few words from Richard Dawkins. Surprisingly [or not], he seemed to have arrived at the same conclusion I have:

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