My experiences with death began in 1974, when I was age 10.
On Labor Day Sunday, while watching the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon, my father told me to turn the TV off.
When I asked why, he said my grandfather, age 74, died.
I would learn years later that he had emphysema and heart trouble.
I did not know my grandfather well, and, being a grammar school student, I didn’t understand death that well.
I was just told he would go to a better place.
Over the years, I would be to more funerals: a schoolmate who died in a skiing accident, three of my grandparents, a friend of a co-worker, and so on.
Man has been hard-wired to accept death, as horrible as it is, for millennia.
I was not alone.
Then, about a month or so after my 43rd birthday in August 2007, my life would change.
First, a co-worker who had been in poor health since an accident several years ago passed away.
Then I encountered several sleepless nights, fearing that I would not wake up again.
I then broke down in tears one Friday at work and was evaluated at hospital.
A second trip a couple of weeks later, this one for several days, followed.
I eventually entered several weeks of group therapy.
Then my mother, age 66, informed the family that she had liver cancer.
The news prompted me to investigate alternative therapies and medicines on the web in what would eventually become a vain attempt to save my mom, who died a week before Thanksgiving.
It was during this search that I learned about life extension and cryonics.
I began paperwork with Alcor, and initiated correspondence with Regina Pancake and Diane Cremeens, who were very helpful.
I still communicate regularly with Regina.
I also conferred with Rudi Hoffman, an insurance agent from Florida who specializes in dealing with cryonicists.
Everything seemingly went well until I received word from Rudi that AIG turned me down, because of a “bi-polar episode” which sent me to hospital on Super Bowl Sunday.
I should have known at that moment that the New England Patriots were going to have a bad day.
Several other minor health issues apparently caused AIG to throw up red flags.
I then employed my backup plan: I switched the beneficiary of my group life policy at my place of work, which is portable, to Cryonics Institute, upon Rudi’s recommendation.
I then contacted Andy Zawacki and Ben Best at CI and eventually filled out the appropriate forms.
Late this past spring I was accepted.
It took the death of a college schoolmate at 45 from heart failure in April to add more urgency to a serious issue.
I eventually declared CI the beneficiary of my 401K funds, which have lately taken a beating.
It’s been over a year since I began my research into cryonics.
I said so long to my career as a starving artist on the “open-mike” comedy circuit.
I waved goodbye to my stalled career as a football coach, a job I had on several occasions during the 1990s.
I found out that a couple of friends stopped being so when I told them of my desire for a longer life.
They used the same deathist argument, which goes, as the comic Bob Newhart would say, something like this:
“Why do you want to live forever? I don’t want to come back and be without my family and friends.”
“What if I come back and the world is much worse than it is today?”
“Why don’t you live your life today and make the most of it?”
It’s easy for anyone to say this, but look at an 80-year lifespan, for argument’s sake, and look at the everyday issues that one must address (work, family, economics, etc.) and one does not have that much time with which to begin.
My family is not crazy about my wishes.
They don’t believe in cryonics, but they will respect my wishes, or so they have said.
Even though my younger sister has power of attorney and is my estate’s executor, and despite the fact that I have paperwork completed with an attorney, I don’t know if I can trust anyone in my family if and when the need arises.
My mom’s death was not the only bell-weather event that I experienced over the last year.
I turned 44 in June.
My high school class celebrated its 25th year reunion.
I didn’t go because, as one who was not considered very popular, I didn’t want to risk having old wounds re-opened. I didn’t want to see classmates trying to impress each other with what they did with their lives after graduation, and I feared seeing some classmates who I did like suffer from the aging process.
I walked through my old grammar school for the first time in almost 35 years recently, and realized two things: first, it is scheduled to be torn down and replaced with a stadium on my local college’s campus, and I could no longer act like a child at heart.
I do not look forward to turning 50 and seeing my body and mind eventually break down.
I dread the prospect of seeing more of my family, friends and heroes fade from images and voices to echoes and memories.
I visited my high school football coach several weeks ago.
He, like my father, is in his early-70’s and has been recovering from a serious auto accident.
I told him that, despite what I may have learned from him in the classroom or on the football field, he unknowingly taught me the most important lesson one can learn: do not be afraid to think outside the normal bounds of society.
I would say “thinking outside the box” would have been a bad pun, considering the subject in mind.
I have no problem telling people of my interest in cryonics because I don’t want to see suffering and death.
Sadly, I have realized that I can’t save everyone in my own little world but myself.
I follow many technological web sites and read as much as I can about life extension.
Today, Bob Ettinger, Ray Kurzweil and Ben Best hold greater importance in my life than Muhammad Ali, the boxing legend, Jim Kelly, the Buffalo Bill quarterback who played in four straight Super Bowls, or Bret “Hitman” Hart, the pro wrestler who earned the right to say he’s “the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.”
I had to rethink my views on religion and spirituality.
How can one’s mind or spirit take one to Heaven or Hell when science says you go nowhere but oblivion?
I have heard people speculate that it may be from 20 to 100 years before the first resident of a cryostat or dewar leaves his or her confines for a renewed and greatly expanded life.
When that event happens, I am sure that much of what mankind has taught itself about so many things will be changed forever.
I don’t want to be left behind.
I want to contribute as much as I can to the cryonics and life extension communities as I can before my time comes to enter the cryostat (that is, if no cures for aging and related diseases are found by then).
I fear death, not only for myself, but for others.
This fear, plus my interest in cryonics and life extension, is what drives me today.
I’m not sure whether I will commemorate the holidays this year or in the years to follow.
What good are toys, games, appliances and other things when we, as a community and, I hope, as a race, should work toward giving and preserving life, which is the greatest gift of all?