For the morbidly curious, the word count of The Big Project has now risen to 23,931, including the following from Chapter Seven: Mortal Considerations. This section immediately follows a section entitled "The Good News: We're All Living Longer", outlining today's skyrocketing life expectancy.
The Bad News: We’re All Dying in Pieces.
In our grandparents’ day, people generally died in one of two places. The lucky ones, it was said, died in their sleep. The rest of them died on the job - an accident in a factory or a farm, or a heart-attack induced from years of eating poorly. However it happened, it was fairly certain that they died in entirety. Not so anymore.
In an her article in the University of Deleware's Journal of Extension, Patricia Tanner Nelson observes “Advances in medicine allow people today to die in "small increments of debility."
Call me odd, but I’m not so sure this sounds like progress. While I have no burning desire to, as my father used to say, “wake up dead some day”, neither am I eager to see the day when death certificates are issued with markings to punch off like those grade school lunch tickets...hearing, sight, continence....get all your holes punched and you’re gone. It’s more of an expiration notice than the death certificate.
In a sense, an extended period of dying accentuates the fact that we need to come to better terms with it than previous generations. Simply put, most of us will live longer and die longer...and we need to get much better at it than we are right now.