Rod Kersh
Person-centred physician

Darkness, all around. Death equivalence.

H's pack. Photo by Rod Kersh, 2023.
M's pack. Photo by Rod Kersh, 2023.

In these days of darkness, I struggle to sleep.

It’s just after two.

Tonight, I woke from a dream.

A newly constructed beach in Israel,

Millions had been spent

On the creation of an artificial atoll,

To extend the space for people

To avoid summer over-crowding.

And then, I think about death.

For me, death and dying are familiar,

As a doctor caring for the old and ageing,

It is a frequent sequel of my care,

More specifically

To use a cliché,

Allowing, nature to take its course.

A natural death

Free from the interfering hands of intensive care doctors and nurses,

Disconnected from oxygen tubing and drip counters.

Last week, one of my old men died.

I included him in a blog last year.

He of the dog, Rover.

In his final years I managed to team him up with a small pack who lived alongside him at the old age home. They even, on occasion accompanied him to hospital.

When, after his death, I spoke with his family, ‘It was a blessing,’ I was told, ‘he wasn’t the man he used to be.’

The slow but steady disintegration that is dementia had ground him down, smooth like a pebble.

And then,

I am troubled and reflect on the children and the young and the old killed in Gaza and Israel.

In yesterday’s blog I reflected on the 10 soldiers lost in one day during fighting in Gaza.

In my, imagination there are flashes of the dead babies, displayed, shrouded in white, for the camera.

I think of Pallywood and the bitterness that is exchanged, one saying the other’s trauma is not real, the claims and counter claims.

And then the thoughts about life’s duration, its value.

The significance of the death of a new or still born alongside the binary multiplication of ages, one year old, then two, four, eight, 16, 32, 64.

Using this calculus, you become an old person very quickly.

Is it better to die before your life has been fully lived, before the number of attachments you have established has formed or later, once you have had a good innings, as they say?

The death of a 19-year-old soldier who likely still lives with his parents, perhaps a girlfriend, without children, only siblings and grandparents left behind versus a man in their fifties who has lived his life, with even grandchildren he has met. In which case is the legacy more tragic?

This thought has been haunting me for days.

In my own world it is far away, and yet, it is played-out daily in Gaza and other war zones.

What is the sounds of one hand clapping? Says the koan.

What is the pain of a child dying, unknown and unheard, in a faraway land?

As a young doctor I toyed briefly with a career in paediatrics. I couldn’t bear the notion of supporting suffering children. Better the old folk who have lived their lives.

Last night I watched the Israeli chat show ‘Eretz Nehederet.’ In one of the sketches, a woman, dancing on stage played the part of a released hostage, one of the grandmothers.

I understand the importance to some of their grandma being freed, it is an irony when we know that children and young women remain in captivity.

In a mathematical world we are drawn to equivalence.

‘100 of their citizens were killed, that is half the tragedy of the 200 on the other side,’ as if, such calculations can ever add-up, a cloud of suffering, ineffable.

None of this is good for me or my mental health, yet what is the alternative? Switch off and turn away? If I do, the fighting will continue, I will become one of the uninformed.

Last night I briefly watched, in-between channel-hopping, Strictly Come Dancing. The stars, skin-deep in makeup, their fixed grins and fascinated expressions stopped me for a moment.

Angela Ripon, in frilly skirt and toned legs, fixed, focused, and smiling.

A world apart.

Another world.

We live in monads.

Individual reality boxes.

That on occasion intersect.

About the Author
Dr Rod Kersh is a Consultant Physician working in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. He blogs at
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