To sleep: perchance to dream: aye, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
[...]Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.
--Hamlet, Act III, Scne I
“This Mortal Coil” marks the second time I have swiped a post title from Hamlet’s famous soliloquy. Unimaginative, perhaps, but it seems so apt, it transcends accusations of lazy writing. That is what I am telling myself, at least. You will allow me to hold onto my delusions for yet another time, will you not, kind souls? I promise to be more creative in the future.
I had a plan to make my exit. As I had not been sleeping well in a long time, I was generally wide awake around five every morning. Oakhaven had moved a new roommate in several days prior to my birthday. He was in far worse shape than Mr. Cagle. The staff got him out of bed and took him to the nurses’ desk every morning at around six. From then until breakfast at about seven-thirty, I was unattended. This was the time of shift change and tending to residents waking up. I had my own, independent routine. I would have plenty of time to do what I needed to do. So I would go first thing in the morning on December 12th.
But I had to get through my birthday first. I had been at oak haven a shade under five months at that point, so I had seen many residents celebrate birthdays. Everyone is wished a happy birthday over the intercom during daily announcements every morning. Families can do whatever they wished for their loved ones. The more generous ones shared confections with other residents. I got my fair share since the summer. Those without families got balloons from the staff to commemorate the day. I missed out on that one, probably for lack of advertising my complete abandonment by family. What I did receive were a number of well wishes from staff along with a few residents and their families It was all nice, but no gesture could penetrate my melancholy.
But I enjoyed--if that is the word--a course correction my birthday evening. Jackie came to visit. She was a fulltime nurse at another hospital who filled in one or two nights a week at oak haven. She was usually in charge of wound care. I met her back in August when she tended to make various dressings. She was a sweet, caring person, and we hit it off quickly. Jackie was one of the few people to whom I felt I could talk freely, so I did. She was the only person I told I was going to attempt calling Denise at work, knowing full well what I might find out doing so could send me spiraling. Jackie and I enjoy an unusually strong bond for a nurse/patient relationship.
Jackie brought some cake pops and candy canes to celebrate my birthday. She knew how to tickle my sweet tooth. It immediately occurred to me the sweets would offer me an opportunity. I could hand these out the next dayvas a belated birthday celebration. It would give me a chance to talk to people, give them a last, happy memory of me. Jackie and I talked for about twenty minutes before she had to leave. I hugged he and told her I loved her for the first time. I meant it.
So I altered my plan to accommodate one last tour around Oakhaven. Now I would wait until after lunch with the cake pops and candy canes at a time when they would be inclined for dessert. I would chit chat about my birthday, taking whatever well-wishes they had for me. Then I would wait until supper time when staff is busy feeding the residents who cannot feed themselves. I would have at least an hour alone. I might even have up to three or four, if everyone assumed on the West Wing assumed I was walking around or sitting in the lobby on the other side. Only when my tube feeding was scheduled to be connected would anyone look for me. Assuming no one tried opening the locked bathroom door at an inconvenient time. No plan is ever foolproof.
I may be a goal oriented guy, but my stonach ties up in knots whenever I approach the culmination of a goal. These days, I am aware it is a diagnosable case of anxiety. Back then, I just called it nerves. My heart may have pounded from the time I popped my eyeballs open until lunch, but I never dithered over my decision. In fact, there was a touch of bitter irony. I turned the television on for noise that morning. It is something I never did. USA Network was airing one of its umpteen Law & Order; SVU marathons. The six AM episode happened to be the one in which Marlee Matlin stars as a assisted suicide advocate who helped a woman attempt asphyxiation by a plastic bag over her head. The plan failed, and the lady who wanted to die concocted a story about an intruder tying the bag over her head. Matlin’s character had tie d the lady’s hands to keep her from ripping the bag off, but did not use anything to keep the bag off her nostrils. Not the most pleasant way to go about it.
I was bemused to have caught that particular episode on that particular day. You may draw your own conclusions about any deeper meaning.
It is a shame the apex of a month long narrative has to be anticlimactic, but for the sake of anonymity, it does. Oakhaven is a small place, and small places have large grapevines. Gossip that gets out can take on a life of its own. I have no intentions of Jane doe finding out who she is. Aside from Dr. Hiatt, who was told under the protection of doctor/patient privilege. Only two other people know her name. one was told in professional capacity as evidence Jane Doe needs to remain anonymous. The other was a trusted confidant who would never say anything to anyone regarding the issue.
I choose not to take it any further than to say who she was is more important than anything she said, though she did have the right words at the right time. Had Jackie not given me the sweets to pass out, I might not have even encountered Jane doe that day. Had I not chosen the day after my birthday as the day to commit suicide, I might not have had the time of past reflection of happier times jane doe inadvertently sparked. A number of people have said God put her in my way. I will not argue with that speculation, but the fact is, I blinked for the first time in months. Maybe even years.
I obviously did not go through with my plan. I was even upbeat for a day or two. But I came back down to earth soon enough. The urge to get rid of my suicide kit never developed. It was still handily hidden in my Rollator. My rollator was never too far away. But I had a new realization--killing myself was easier to conceptualize than pull off. But I also lacked the nerve to keep on living. The joy I had received from Jane Doe was now a bittersweet notion the past is irretrievably gone. Memories will only take you so far. So what do you do when you cannot decide whether living or dying is the lesser of two evils? I fell into an spiritual and emotional tailspin I would not be able to hide from anyone much longer.