The Hardship of Living…

Mark Reichman 13 Dec 1963 - 1 April 2014

Mark Reichman
13 Dec 1963 – 1 April 2014

I wasn’t there
I didn’t see
I’m left to wonder how this could be
Is this a nightmare from which I’ll wake
Was there no other choice that you could make
Had the burden of life become too much to bear
Was living a torment
Your Life,
One of despair
I don’t understand it
None of us do
Was life a Winter landscape,
So gray and so bleak
Did you think of the destruction you’d leave in your wake
The havoc your untimely passing would create
Your daughters who love you
A Mother, burying a son
Your sisters, as one
Your choice was a sad one
Reality bites
Did none of us see
As a possibility coming to pass
This April Fools joke was a little extreme,
The punchline not funny
What does it all mean
You spoke to your mother
You spoke of the future
You sounded happy
And now we know why
Your decision was made, the decision to die
Be at peace
Be pain free
Find sunshine and solace where ever you are
Outshine the stars like a diamond in the sky

Have you ever wondered what the point is? Why is it that you wake up every morning of every day to face the world again? Is it a conscious choice that you make or something that you just cannot avoid? A friend of mine has an expression “The Tyranny of yes, the freedom of no” in my head it resonates as the “the tyranny of life and the freedom of death” but, does death actually bring you freedom or does it merely facilitate the escape from one living hell into a deathly one? And therein lies the rub for me because do we live or do we just exist and if we just exist is there any real point if that is all there is to life?

To the spiritual answers I have no clue and only give a passing thought to when I feel the brush of another beings energy pass across my skin, so it is really the earthbound questions I give pause to in my daily life.
Life is tough, dealing with the reality of one’s daily issues is a challenge that even the toughest, the richest and the happiest face. So what is it that drives a person to the point where opting out appears to be the ultimate solution to one’s woes whether they be real or imagined.
Why do the people who live life on the fringe carry on living? Their lives appear to be miserable with no money, no facilities, no daily shelter and wondering where their next meal is coming from that you have wonder why they choose to do it every day, what not just step off a bridge and end it? Is the human will to live so strong that the thought of ending it all does not enter their heads?
At what point does the need to cease living become greater than the will to live? At what point does the desire to end it all overwhelm the thoughts in your head of the devastation and grief that you will leave behind? What does it take to happen in your brain, what chemicals take control, what thoughts take command that are strong enough to suppress the basic human will to survive? Give thought for one second to the survivors of the concentration camps who lived in spite of the horror and deprivation they were subjected to, give thought to those who suffer from illness and disease whose days are filled with pain and no possibility of relief, they go on every day in spite of the inelegance of living.
Living or existing is the difference between relishing each day and not so much living each like it is your last but rejoicing in the fact that you are alive, that you have a roof over your head, even if you cannot really afford the rent or bond, seeing the sun shine in all its glory every day and laughing in spite of everything.

I too have questioned the point of working long hours, sore feet, soured relationships, the bleakness of the future of the planet, mankind’s inhumanity towards his fellow man and animals and I know in my heart that that it is the way we treat the planet and its bounty that depresses me the most. To me, the people who take it upon themselves to challenge society on the choices it makes are the real heroes, the anti-trophy hunters, the vegans, the people on the ground who face the miserable plight of our lions, dogs, elephants and primates, amongst others. When I see man’s cruelty towards “others” I wonder at the future of life on this planet and I am grateful that I do not have children who will be left to fight the fight for the well being of planet Earth, when the water runs out, when the rain forests are decimated, when the fundamentalists take over, when freedom of choice is no longer an option. Is there any wonder then, that some people choose to opt out early. You’re wondering why I don’t choose to end it early if this is the bleakness I see ahead?
I know I have had days or weeks even when I have wondered what the point of all this is. Why it is that I get up every day to face the hardship of the daily grind. Admittedly my life is a bowl of cherries when compared to the millions of others out there who struggle with their daily existence.
To quote a friend, life is relentless, it just keeps on going! You can opt out for a while but then you pop your head back out and life, like the steamroller it is just rolls on over you and carries on, your choice is whether you want to stay in it’s path.
I think life is more like a roller coaster, exciting and scary, with never a dull moment but it’s your choice if you want to close your eyes, hold on tight and scream in the face of it or put your hands up and yell out your challenge to the skies with your eyes drinking in the ride.

Would I ever consider suicide as an option?
Yes. Maybe. I don’t know. Possibly. The day that my disease reaches a point where the quality of my daily life becomes a chore and I am a burden to others, maybe then.
Until that day NO, not whilst the sun shines, I can laugh at my foibles, paint a canvas, sculpt out of clay and work for my daily bread. Not whilst I still enjoy the feel of rain on my skin, the pleasure of living is not a hardship to be endured.
I have now experienced those mangled emotions, suffered the grief, wondered why, questioned why, found a few sad answers and realized that so many of the questions will remain unanswered. Now I know the devastation of suicide is not just something that happens to other people’s families, now I know that suicide is a choice that anyone can make

The thirsty days of mourning is over, but my life will go on
Rest in Peace brother

Getting My Shit (MS)

On Thursday 20th February 2014 at around 11.15am my world fell apart.
I went from being a strong independent self-starter to OMG how am I going to cope with this and feeling like an invalid in the space of a few words. All it took was the doctor to say “I’m afraid I have some bad news”. You hear them in movies, your hear stories from friends who hear them, but when you actually hear them yourself the world seems to stop spinning on its axis for a very brief moment of eternity. It is almost comical because the world and the people in it do not change but you do, instantly.
I had been feeling dizzy and light headed for a couple of days. I have high blood pressure but when it is running towards the high side I usually feel nauseous and sickly and this wasn’t how this felt. I felt stoned. And not in a good way. That revolting feeling when you turn your head and your brain only follows a second later. That’s how was was feeling and it wasn’t cool. I was trying to run my business and take care of my “massive” empire whilst feeling like an out of control drug addict. I went to see my GP. She seemed to think middle ear infection and said I needed to see an ENT or a Specialist Physician. I have a friend with a brain tumour so I, in my usual casual fashion asked if that is what we were looking for. She never answered.
The fastest way to get into the healthcare system is to go via an emergency room, so the next day that is exactly what I did. In fact I grabbed my mum and said let’s pop down to the hospital quickly. I wasn’t expecting to end up being booked in overnight after an MRI and a myriad of blood tests.
I think I knew then that whatever was going on was going to be serious, this wasn’t going to be a simple middle ear infection…
Of course, the toughest thing you can go through is the wait for results and the night was very long, and very fraught with all manner of anxieties and the doctor only showed up at around 11am the following day. Maybe if he hadn’t showed up at all the following days would have been a little less bleak but one cannot really shoot the messenger in this day and age if one doesn’t like what he has to say “I’m afraid I have some bad news, you have lesions on your brain that could be one of three things. You need to see a neuro ”
I was very casual and incredibly cavalier in my response to him. I said when you speak to the neuro please tell him I will come in on Monday to see him. I had my first ever, first ever solo, sculpture exhibition opening that Sunday afternoon and nothing was going to stand in my way of being there. Nothing! The Neuro had other ideas and I was instructed to present myself immediately, the next hospital was waiting for my arrival. So I drove myself home and then got mum to take me to the next clinic, at least this one was a little closer to home and this doctor I had already met before.
I was dispatched for a lumbar puncture on arrival and then got to spend the next 14 hours either on my stomach or on my back so as to minimize headache that was going to follow. The doctors were looking for MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and they found it.
The MRI had confirmed 3 lesions on my brain that hadn’t been there a few years previously and with the results of the fluid from the lumbar puncture and a couple more blood tests it was confirmed. I have been diagnosed with MS.
The news was a shock that I have only just begun to get over. It could have been worse, it could have been a brain tumor. It could have been worse, I could not have had a medical aid. It could have been worse, I could have had to face this alone, without the incredible support of my mother, family and friends.
This journey is just beginning… Now the medical aid needs to be petitioned to pay for the huge costs of medication. I have to work towards changing my life, reducing the hours I work, changing my diet, reducing the stress in my daily existence, no mean feat in this country. These things are a challenge but they are doable, and I intend to try because not trying means giving in to this really ugly disease and letting it take control of my life instead of me taking control of it, one day at a time.
I have spent the past week grieving for the future that might have been but the truth is I actually have no idea what the future might have been anyway. It isn’t like I intended to climb Everest before this diagnosis but it does mean that I intend taking that hot air balloon ride rather sooner than later, that I might not ever hike the Otter Trail but I will enjoy the walks in Delta Park with my faithful Amiga, even more now that I used to and that although that slice of cake looks awesomely delicious I may just enjoy that fresh plum a little more.
From here on it is about living life, loving life and trying to be a better person if only because I can be
This is the beginning of my journey and you are welcome to come along for the ride……