Three years ago my closest friend, for the longest period of time in my life, was attacked by her only son, as he spun out in a psychotic rage in an
exile motel room in the middle of a nowhere that is upstate New York as she was bringing him his dinner; a covered dish of pasta and red peppers. It
was some moment between that attack, and a couple hours later, when OR techs at St. Elizabeth's hospital in Utica, NY confirmed that she was
clinically and legally "brain dead" that she either did or did not pass from the corporeal realm and graduate to the status of a fully viable, eternal
human being. And that's the real question here, because her heart - driven by the raw mechanics of her still-functional brain stem - had not yet given
up the fight to push blood through her system. Her lungs had not stopped expanding and contracting. Legally, she was still alive, and she would remain
"alive" until 5:00 the next morning, when, surrounded by a small family contingent, she finally died in a legal sense and in keeping with her family's
Roman Catholic traditions.
On her stone, it reads June 11, 1957 - January 20, 2009, but in my heart I honor her passing today, on the 19th of January, since it's my own belief
that she passed on as soon as her brain became permanently incapable of cognitive response of any kind or at any level. But what's the truth about
Is the human being the corporeal whole, regardless of how little of that whole is still auto-functional? And why is it a case where the beating heart
can ever be any criterion when the question of life is being examined? Dick Cheney hasn't had a beating heart for years now. Is he legally dead
because he's got no pulse anymore?
So when does a person cease to be "alive"? In our culture, your heart can stop for quite a while and yet you'll still be considered alive. Your brain
can be incapable of any level of function beyond the basic brain stem activity that keeps the heart beating and maybe even the lungs expanding and
contracting, but does that mean that you're trapped inside that husk until the heart and lungs stop their activity. Or are you standing by, and
watching the drama play out along with the gathering of loved ones that have assembled in a grim vigil as your belligerent body refuses to give up the
This is the question that drove me deep into the field of Metaphysics. Did Rhonda die three years ago today, or did she survive into the small hours
of January 20th?
edit on 1/19/2012 by NorEaster because: (no reason given)