One of the people I've been taking care of here at the house died this morning. Her name was Norma Smith, and I called her Mrs. Smith. An old habit from working at the nursing home, not using someone's first name if they're older than I am. Funny how that little foible came right back to me when I invited these folks into my home.
She didn't pass in her sleep. Most of the people sick with the new plague who lose the fight go that way. Mrs. Smith woke up for a few minutes, her eyes glassy and her breathing harsh and shallow. There wasn't much in those eyes, desperate pain faded to resignation. All animals seem to know when their final moments are on them, and people are no different. I sat with her for those last few minutes, watched the remaining strength flow from her muscles and bones.
I held her when she died.
I should have felt more. I didn't cry for her. A light sadness crept over me that I couldn't do more, that the life she fought so hard to keep was taken from her in a way she just couldn't combat. Being there for her as she died was the least I could do for her. Sadly, it was also all I could do.
Norma's death marks an interesting turn to how the new plague is playing out around our home. We seem to have reached a point of rough balance between the number of people falling ill and the number getting better or passing away. There's some hope that the worst of it is over. As we are now, we can maintain things until the sickness burns itself out.
We have hope, as always, but not expectations. Because basing your plans and future on what you'd like to happen is stupid. We expect the worst as always and will work from there.
Trying to comfort Norma was a strange thing for me. I couldn't help sitting there and recalling the times I'd done the same before The Fall, trying to be there for the people I took care of at work when one of them was moving on to whatever is next. I don't even know if I believe in an afterlife anymore, but I damn well believe in life.
Think about it for a minute. Every person around you is a walking miracle. We're these animals, evolved enough to have the capacity for logic and self-awareness to a degree other creatures can't manage. We're the apex species of planet Earth, a biological anomaly. A quirk of nature.
Each of us is a conglomeration of experiences and events that make us who we are. We've loved and hated, risked everything and taken the easy way out. We've been kind and cruel, had moments of deep insight and impervious denial. Some of us have specialized in understanding the strangest and most esoteric fields of study while others are dedicated generalists. Those experiences and the knowledge that comes with them are as invaluable for their inherent teachable data as they are for what they represent about the species.
What kinds of knowledge did Norma have to share with us? What things did she know that might not even seem important but somewhere down the line could prove crucial to some endeavor? What about the wisdom that came from the experiences gaining that knowledge, you know?
We're more than just repositories for information. One of the things that makes the human animal so unique, so damn amazing, is our ability to learn overarching lessons from our experiences. Through understanding, we grow wise, and we share that wisdom with those who come after us.
In the world that was, there were so many people that we lost sight of how important those lessons were. Sitting here tapping away at my keyboard, hearing the shouts of sentries on the walls as zombies taunt them below, I can't help but feel envy for Norma and her escape from this. She's at peace now.
The rest of us may have lost an invaluable resource. The worst part of that is not knowing if we have or not. I think, should we weather this storm, that we should take steps to change that.
Rest well, Mrs. Smith. You'll be missed.