Notes On The Dying Experience: Frog Gravy 24 [with jail art]

Posted: August 20, 2011 in Artwork, Neutral
Tags: , , , , ,

Turtle saying hello, by Crane-Station on flickr. Jail art, colored pencil.

Turtle saying hello by Crane-Station on flickr. Jail art, colored pencil.

Bluebirds bring a letter by Crane-Station on flickr. Jail art: colored pencil and magazine art.

Bluebirds delivering mail, by Crane-Station on flickr. Jail art, colored pencil, magazine ink and ink.

The above drawings are from Fulton County Detention Center.

McCracken County jail banned pencils and art supplies of any kind.

Author’s note: Frog Gravy is a nonfiction account of incarceration in jails and in prison in Kentucky in 2008 and 2009, and is reconstructed from my notes.

Names have been changed.

Frog Gravy posts are also on Firedoglake.com in MyFDL in my diaries.

This post is from jail.

McCracken County Jail, Sometime in February, 2008, Cell 107

After Ruthie’s mother dies, I develop a fear that will stay with me for nearly the next two years. I fear that I will lose a parent, my son, my husband, or another loved one. None of my family members reside in this state, except for my husband.

During incarceration, I will see women lose parents, and also children, and I will watch in horror as a prison inmate is shackled and belly-chained and herded off to attend, for one-half hour, her son’s funeral- her teenage son, who drowned in an accident.

My mother’s sister is in fact very elderly and sick. I do not know how to help my mother with this from my vantage point, except to tell her what to expect. The dying experience is something that, for some reason or another, is avoided altogether in American culture. In my experience, many families were at a total loss at the bedside of a dying person, and many chose to leave the bedside altogether. I would always try to tell them, at the very least, that we believe hearing is intact until a person dies; hearing is the last thing to go, although of course, it is difficult to research this.

Here are my notes, and they may have come from a book or from memory:

1-3 months prior
-withdrawl from people and from world
-words less important than touch and physical presence, less verbal communication.
-decreased food intake.
-going inside of self.
-less communication.

1-2 weeks
-disorientation.
-agitation
-talking with the unseen.
-confusion.
-picking at clothes.

Physical:
-decreased blood pressure.
-pulse rapid or slow.
-skin color changes, pale, bluish.
-sleeping but responding.
-complaints of body tired and heavy…

Days or hours:

-intensification of the 1-2 week signs.
-surge of energy.
-decrease in blood pressure.
-eyes glassy, tearing, half open.
-restlessness.
-purplish knees, feet, hands.

Minutes:

-fish out of water breathing.
-cannot be awakened.

I try to talk openly with my mother, through letters, and educate her about the dying experience, and what to maybe expect in her sister’s case. My mother and I also exchange a few comments about our culture’s obsession with youth: unless you are young, and skinny, and getting laid, and making a lot of money, you are nothing.

It also occurs to me that I am psychologically and physically dying right here in this cement coffin, slowly, by inches and seconds. It is February, and I have not been out of the cell for any kind or rec since my arrival. Depression is crushing. I am babbling at times. I join others in showing my breasts to the men in the hallway.

Sometimes I wonder why the haters cannot just man up and kill us outright. But, I do not think they would enjoy that quite as much.

Author’s end note: My aunt died after my release, and, I was one of the lucky ones, in that I did not lose a family member during my incarceration. I was given, over and over, this advice: “You cannot live in here and out there at the same time.”

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