A Face In The Kung Pao Chicken

Walter Gabrielson Painter

I was invited to a dinner at a retirement complex but couldn't make it. It was the weekly potluck, atendees bring a salad or dessert and the administration provides the main dish, Chinese from a local restaurant. The affair got off well with a little entertainment, followed by some fellowship and then to the eats. The diners rolled into their usual conversations which were about how their kids didn't care for them any more and then on to just about everything about the medical profession and their medical problems when one lady simply keeled over into her Kung Pao chicken, dead as a doornail.

Not that this sort of thing is a big shock around there, it happens. They share their lives in a group where the end is just around the corner, their friends are there one day and gone the next. It is much like taking an ocean voyage and never knowing if you are on the Titanic or a holiday cruise.

But the dinners were now faced with a provocative question, after the paramedics had come and gone and hauled off the lady, should they continue or fold? You think about it, everybody has to eat but you're feeling bad about it. You want to respect the departed but life must (and will) go on. What do you do? Seems sort of callus to go on eating. Plus, everything had gone cold. And maybe, just maybe, the Kung Pao chicken was suspect. On the other hand, there was dessert. If you were very young you would probably get hysterical and throw up or get sick or something. But these are hardy folks, they have been around and death is always a surprise but no big surprise.

I think it would be an interesting decision. I wasn't there so I couldn't tell how I would have reacted. In its own way the event was a diversion , an entertainment if you would, in a place where life is pretty dull. You don't knock an entertaiment when it comes along. Good topic of conversation when the soaps are over. Death is going to happen, you can't ignore it but do you want to invite it in for coffee? I would think that someting we would want to hold offas long as possible had just jumped right into everyone's face. I don't think I would have wanted to go on with dinner, but that's assuming I was well past the salad and cruising through the main course. But, no reason to let the dessert go to waste, so wrap some up and go back to my room for later. I think a lot of people did that.