Scared for my liver

By Jon Hillenbrand In Photography, Stories

If you’ve ever seen the movie, “Saving Private Ryan,” you might remember the death scene for “Doc” brilliantly acted out by Giovanni Ribisi.  Ribisi is great because he has a darkness to him that’s offset by highlights of innocence.  Well, in his final scene, shown from the point of view of the fearful translator, we plunge through smoke to see Doc peppered with bullet holes after a short gun battle.  While other soldiers put pressure on his abdomen, Ribisi cries out for information about where he’s hit.  With everyone holding him down, he can’t sit up to look at his wounds.  They scramble through a panic, but after the captain silences them with his certain voice where the holes are, Doc cries out, “No, my liver!”  It’s a remark that someone trained in trauma medicine would amount to a death sentence.  Doc knows he is done for.  And his earlier speech the night before of ignoring his mother while he pretended to sleep rings familiar like a tune you used to know but have forgotten.  He dies through a merciful fog of morphine moments before his life drains out, tapped by hate and fear.

Though this scene is powerful and tragic, the thing that resonates with me the most is the exclamation by Doc about his liver.  How is it that news can be absorbed so quickly by the mind and spoken aloud, the meaning of something, more than the physical input.  He wasn’t exclaiming, “I’m injured in this part of my body,” he was screaming, “I have a fatal injury!”  I know it’s just a story, but I’ve seen similar situations in person before.  Not ones of such mortality, but ones of fleeting and passing import in comparison.  But hey, I’m not personally at war right now.

I’ve been proud and embarrassed by my own propensity to say what’s on my mind.  Sometimes I analyze a situation beyond what I think is the obvious, getting at the very heart of the matter, only to realize that I’ve alienated everyone in the room, winning the argument, perhaps, but losing the war.  Hearts and minds and all that.   And I sometimes feel that if someone doesn’t like what I have had to say, it’s because they haven’t deciphered the subtle meaning of my thoughts and projections.  I’m quick to dismiss others sometimes as having a paradigm of thought so narrow that they choose to preserve their own world view, rather than think more deeply and accept something new or foreign or counter to their preconceived ideals.  And I know it’s all very conceited and full of myself and that maybe I should just shut up and let people not care enough to convince me fully of their own points of view.  The fact is, I don’t care about winning, I really just want to think more deeply about some things and have someone say, “Yeah, good point, I didn’t think about it like that.”

And while the masses are swayed by the media, seeking higher ground by the speculative reports that  the flood is coming, I stand my soppy ground “knowing” that there’s a deeper truth to be held.  But not always.  The main point I wanted to make was that many times when the truth confronts me in the middle of a dark street, I freeze up and keep quiet, hoping the darkness will protect me in some kind of cloak of safe ignorance.  It’s like if you’ve ever been to a party, and someone starts criticizing the dip that you brought.  They go on and on about how bad it is, not knowing that you made it from scratch, and you stand there like a monument to agreeableness.  So I’m left to wonder which route I’ll take when it comes to my own mortal end.  Will I cry out that I know the end is coming, or will I choose to stay quiet?

I’m kind of hoping that I’ll choose to say something.  Feigning ignorance about my terminal departure seems like something I’d have an eternity to regret.  Like I’ll be looking down at my own funeral listening to people say, “Boy, he didn’t even know that he was going to die.  What bliss!”  And I’ll be floating there screaming inaudibly, “I knew the whole time, damn you!” 

Anyway, we’ll see.

What do you think?