I spent quite a large part of my day cleaning a friend’s house which really gives the mind license to wander. Somewhere between cleaning a shower and vacuuming a rug I started thinking of dishonorable ways to die.
When talking about someone who has passed on, the question of how they expired usually comes up. If it’s a “natural” yet scary death, such as cancer, your listener will probably suck in a breath through their teeth and give you a sympathetic look. If the death is sudden or tragic you will probably get an “Oh my God! I am so sorry”. If the death was natural and timely you will get much less…maybe even people saying that “it was for the best”. While you know they mean well, really, who are they to decide that it was great that your loved one passed on?
Recently, my aunt passed away in her sleep. She just slipped away with her dogs by her. I don’t know how many times my family and I heard, “Well, if you’re going to go, that is a good way to do it.” I am sure those people were trying to keep us from feeling too bad about her death, but really she was under 60 and it didn’t help.
Now, let’s think about what might happen if you were to die in a manner that is uncomfortable to discuss, not due to tragedy, but do to the embarrassing nature of your affliction. I was imagining myself in the doctor’s office getting the news.
DOCTOR: I’m afraid it’s bad news. You have NEFS.
ME: NEFS? What is it? Is it serious?
DOCTOR: It stands for Never Ending Fart Syndrome, and yes, it’s serious. In fact, it’s terminal.
ME: How long do I have? What is going to happen to me?
DOCTOR: It could be days or months. One day it will start and not stop until you’re gone.
ME: What will start?
DOCTOR: The gas.
ME: Excuse me?
DOCTOR: Farts, toots, passing intestinal gas through one’s anus. It will drain your life.
And so it would begin, like a weather siren, weeks, days, endless hours, countless minutes. My family will gather around my death bed until the the blasting finally starts to wind down, getting quieter and lower until it stops. A few sputters and then it’s over.
How will people explain my death? Maybe they will just give a blanket statement like “natural causes”. Maybe they will go on a crusade to bring this not-so-silent killer to light and try and raise money for funding so that others won’t have to suffer the same embarrassing fate.
Dying is probably not always easy, but having to explain to people how someone died is always hard. The next time you ask the question, be aware of what you say in return. Don’t give advice, don’t judge, don’t give an anecdote…and for God’s sake, don’t ask what NEFS stands for.