Monday, June 20, 2005

The Big Lie

by Skald

Ivan Ilyich suffered most of all from the lie, the lie which, for some reason, everyone accepted: that he was not dying but was simply ill,... And he was tortured by this lie, tortured by the fact that they refused to acknowledge what he and everyone else knew, that they wanted to lie about his horrible condition and to force him to become a party to that lie.

This lie, a lie perpetrated on the eve of his death, a lie that was bound to degrade the awesome, solemn act of his dying to the level of their social calls, their draperies, and the sturgeon they ate for dinner, was an excruciating torture for Ivan Ilyich.

It hurt to read that passage. Because I have been a party to just such a lie. Painfully uncanny... that quote recalls... exactly... my grandfather's death.

I remember the last time I saw him... my final visit to see him in Indiana. The first time I saw him I knew. I knew he was dying. But I went along with everyone's lie. The lie that with the right treatment, the right medicine, the right rest,... he would recover.

No one dared to speak of death. It was never discussed. Everyone pretended. My aunt bullied my grandfather to take his medicine, see another specialist, etc., etc.

And what did I do? I avoided him. I barely spoke to him the few days I was there. I couldnt bear to pretend in his presence and didnt dare burst the bubble of denial surrounding the family. But Im sure he knew. The lie probably tortured him too. He too probably wanted to discuss this awesome, mysterious, terrifying occurence.

I would. I would want to set things in order for myself. I would want to say goodbye. I would want to deal with the truth. Im sure he did too. How lonely he must have felt. How isolated... alone with his impending death, and everyone frantically denying it.

I was a coward then, and I regret it. I wish I would have sat down with him and talked about death.... screw whether everyone would be upset. He was a kind and wonderful man and I owed him at least that.

But instead I avoided him... unable to speak truthfully, unable to lie to him.

I will never make that mistake again. Never again will I degrade "the awesome, solemn act of dying".



eghead said...


On some levels, nothing to apologize for. We're all learning as we go. If we were fully evolved out of the womb, what would living be for? (Also, we'd just be plain tiresome as kids......)

Death is one of those places we can never prepare adequately for. We *CAN* and should do the human thing of reaching out as often as we can to those on the precipice, so that they will not face the 'next step' alone.....

All else is just noise, the aether, and a hole in space......

Namaste, y'all.


AJ said...


Gil.... very true. These lessons can be quite painful to learn but as you said, that's much of what life is about. Thanks for the encouraging words.