Yesterday, I happened to see a video about Queen Elizabeth’s death. It was made by a popular content creator that routinely makes videos and shares social media worthy articles. I couldn’t help but notice that, more than once, the person (or AI) narrating the video described Queen Elizabeth’s recent death as “tragic”. Then I realized that other people, even media personalities who ought to know better, were referring to a 96 year old wealthy white woman’s death as “tragic”, even though she died in the company of her loved ones and attended to by very highly qualified physicians.
So I took to Facebook to air my grievances. This is what I wrote:
I have seen a lot of people referring to QEII’s death as “tragic”. I think people need to look up the word “tragic” and realize that nothing about the queen’s death was tragic. “Tragic” would have been dying alone and in pain, forgotten in a hospital room after spending months on life support. “Tragic” would have been dying in a freak accident in her 20s, or being gunned down by a maniac in the middle of the Platinum Jubilee.
The queen died in her favorite place, surrounded by loved ones, with excellent medical supervision, at the grand age of 96. She lived a fabulous life, enjoying robust health for most of it. Queen Elizabeth had a death many would envy. Her death isn’t tragic. Death happens to all of us. She has left a wonderful legacy that won’t be forgotten, and she is no longer in any pain. That is not a tragedy. We should all be so lucky to end life in such a way.
But she will be missed by many. Perhaps that is tragic for those who will mourn her the most.
Yesterday morning, I read a story in The New York Times about a man’s death that struck me as truly tragic. Marc Lewitinn, aged 76, spent the last 850 days of his life on a ventilator before he finally succumbed. Mr. Lewitinn had survived lung cancer and a stroke that had left him unable to speak when the COVID-19 crisis began in March 2020. Because of his delicate health and age, his family urged him to stay socially distanced. Later that month, when cabin fever got the best of him, Mr. Lewitinn decided to venture out to a crowded Starbucks near his home. Soon after that fateful visit to Starbucks, Mr. Lewitinn was lethargic and had a blood oxygen level of 85 percent. He had contracted COVID.
Because of his falling blood oxygen levels, doctors decided to intubate Mr. Lewitinn and induce a coma. His family was told that in spite of the measures being taken to help him, Mr. Lewitinn would likely die within a few days, due to his fragile health and age. Instead of saying goodbye, his family urged Mr. Lewitinn to fight for his life. And he did. He remained in a coma for six months and was moved to a hospital closer to his home. He survived COVID-19. But the disease and being on the ventilator had weakened his lungs so much that Mr. Lewitinn was never able to be weaned from the machine. He spent 850 days on it until he finally suffered a fatal heart attack on July 23, 2022.
I’m not sure how Mr. Lewitinn’s family members feel about their father’s last two years. Maybe they were grateful that he hung on for as long as he did. I’m sure his case did some good for those who no doubt learned from it. However, in my personal opinion, and realizing that I wasn’t there to see the actual conditions he was living under, his last two years don’t sound like they were quality years. I noticed the comments on the obituary pretty much indicated the same thing. This man’s death, to me, sounds much more tragic than Queen Elizabeth’s was.
Maybe a better example of a tragic death would be any of the ones caused by gun violence. I think of the children who died in terror at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. They were in school to learn, and probably felt safe there. But then they were murdered by yet another unhinged man with a gun, while living in a state where guns are practically worshiped. Survivors of that horrifying incident are now starting a new school year. I’ll bet there isn’t a single child attending school there who still feels safe and comfortable.
Or perhaps another good example of a tragic death is that of Eliza Fletcher’s. The pretty 34 year old kindergarten teacher and mom went jogging in the wee hours of September 2, 2022. During her run, she was abducted and murdered by a man who had a criminal history of kidnapping and had only recently gotten out of prison. Fletcher had two beautiful young children, who will now have to grow up without their mother. That, to me, is tragic.
Today is September 11th. Twenty-one years ago, the United States was attacked by terrorists, resulting in the loss of thousands of innocent lives. That was a real tragedy. It’s laughable to me that some people are calling the Queen’s death tragic, when I consider how 9/11 victims died in 2001.
Everybody dies. Most people have at least one person in their lives who will miss them when that inevitable event happens. But there are worse things than death.
I think of my father, who had always been a healthy man, getting afflicted with Lewy Body Dementia. For six years, he slowly became less like himself, unable to tend to his own needs, and losing his ability to think, communicate, and move at will. He died at age 81, after having emergency gallbladder surgery. He had survived the surgery, but was unable to recover from the anesthesia. It was kind of a shock when he died, since the gallbladder attack had been sudden. But I remember feeling relieved because, even though his death meant saying goodbye to him forever, it also meant he no longer had to suffer as his body failed him. And although I wasn’t there when he passed, my sister was, and she said he had a look of utter amazement and peace on his face as he died.
Many people expressed condolences to me when my dad died, assuming that his death would devastate me. I didn’t feel devastated, though. My father lived a long, productive life, and he spent his last days with my mother, who took very good care of him in their luxury apartment. He had many friends and loved ones who were there to pay respects to him. He didn’t suffer a terrible death, alone, destitute, or in severe pain. People loved him, and were there for him as he exited the mortal coil. That isn’t tragic. Neither was Queen Elizabeth’s death.
Maybe in the strictest definition of the word, any death is “tragic”, simply because death is fatal. But by that account, if everyone dies, everyone experiences tragedy. That seems like a very pessimistic way of looking at life. Life is full of winners and losers. It’s not necessarily fair, but that’s the way it is. Queen Elizabeth was certainly one of life’s winners. She is already missed by countless people, as she was a beloved figure to millions of people around the globe. She had a very good death, not a tragic one. And now, her spirit is hopefully reunited with Prince Philip’s. I like to think it is.