“Terminal Rage” May Be “Rage Against the Dying of the Light”

The quotation below from Dylan Thomas is his first line and title for one of my favorite, albeit sad, poems. It is the first line, but my favorite line is: “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

(p. D4) Terminal Agitation

“Do not go gentle into that good night” (Dylan Thomas)

My grandfather screamed two days before he died. “Open that door and let me out! Right now! It’s a travesty! Open that door!”

It was the scream of a lost child. My grandfather’s eyebrows, which had been lost over the years from the outside inward so that only a centimeter of long gray hairs near the middle remained, tilted toward each other.

Until then, we were preparing for missing and absence. Not for an agitated delirium. Not for rage.

. . .

Instead of peacefully floating off, the dying person may cry out and try to get out of bed. Their muscles might twitch or spasm. The body can appear tormented.

. . .

People who witness terminal agitation often believe it is the dying person’s existential response to death’s approach. Intense agitation may be the most visceral way that the human body can react to the shattering of inertia. We squirm and cry out coming into the world, and sometimes we do the same leaving it.

For the full commentary see:

Sara Manning Peskin, M.D. “The Symptoms of Dying.” The New York Times (Tuesday, June 20, 2017 [sic]): D4.

(Note: ellipses added. In the original, the line of Dylan Thomas’s poem, and his name, appear in italics.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the same date and title as the print version.)

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