If I Die

5 mins read
Me — and those I would leave behind.

We’re all thinking it. It’s not just me. By now, we’ve learned that the virus may have some favorite victims, but it can and does kill everyone regardless of age, health, pre-existing conditions, etc. Some are more vulnerable, but none are safe, leaving us all to seriously ponder the question that few of us are willing to ask out loud. “What if I die?”

If I die, it will happen during my 46th year on the planet. I don’t have any relevant conditions I’m aware of, nothing that puts me in a higher risk category, but I’m at the point in life where unknown conditions could be brewing in the background — the beginnings of high blood pressure, for example, or the first warning signs of diabetes (both of which run in the family). I’m overweight, but active and relatively healthy otherwise. My risk is moderate compared to most, but if I end up in a pile of dead bodies in the back of a refrigerated truck parked outside the local ER, no one is going to be shocked that the virus decided to take me and not my elderly parents. And no one would be shocked if my parents wound up in the truck stacked on top of me. It’s just our new reality.

These are unpleasant thoughts, but rational ones, and if we are to behave properly in this time of crisis, we better get ready for the simple fact that the COVID-19 virus does not only kill people on our TV screens. It’s going to kill people we know. Too many are already fully aware of this, but we will all join in the grieving soon.

If I die, I will leave behind a wife of 17 years and two children, ages 12 and 10. My wife is a nurse, so she’ll certainly blame herself for my illness. She’ll think she brought it home, which is a reasonable belief. I likely won’t have time to comfort her when we go to the hospital for a test, because I’ll be quarantined.

If I die, I’ll be alone when it happens, surrounded not by family but by machines. I probably won’t hear the beeps of the monitors through the sedatives they give me while my vent is unplugged so it can be used on someone more likely to recover. My death will not be the inevitable result of failed attempts to save me using every resource available; it’ll be the agonizing decision of a doctor or nurse who will choose to kill me so someone else might live. It’ll be a number problem, a terrible bit of utilitarian calculus that no one, doctor or patient, should ever have to face. It will be forced upon him or her by a system that values neither of us. In preparation for this terrible moment, I am hereby forgiving that person in advance, whoever he or she may be, just in case. Do what you have to do, and then move on to the next patient. Keep working. Keep doing the job. Save the next dad. It’s going to be OK.

If I die, there will be many reasons why it happened. Ignorance, greed, political cravenness, a staggering lack of empathy — all will play a role in my death.

If I die, I will likely bankrupt my family with the medical bills that follow.

If I die, my family will lose a loving father and husband, and my community will lose a dedicated teacher.

If I die, it will have been entirely preventable.

And if I die, those truly responsible will never be brought to justice.

Originally posted on Medium. Re-posted with permission.


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Brett Pransky is a teacher, a father, and a writer, but not necessarily in that order. When not engaged in the good fight, he spends his time as a mild-mannered English professor at Ohio University. Find him on Twitter @BrettPransky.

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