Dead Men Don’t Snore

At the time of my diagnosis, I was working part-time for a children’s after school club. In order to calm the kids down after playing sports it was standard practice to end sessions in the sports’ hall with a game of Sleeping Lions (or Dead Lions as it was known before political correctness took hold).

On one such occasion, the hall settled into virtual silence with only a gentle murmur from the three children tasked with provoking their recumbent classmates to speak, laugh or move. I was making use of the lull to fill out session plans for the following week when the silence was broken by a very loud and comedic snore from the far corner of the room. The culprit, ‘Sam’ had been in trouble a dozen times already that afternoon and my patience was rapidly wearing thin, but even Ihad to stifle laughter as I issued a stern reminder that the game was meant to be silent. In response, his snores grew ever louder and sillier, and a second warning produced only the briefest of silences before his snoring resumed. Finally losing patience my colleague tried to issue a final warning but Sam interrupted her.
“I’m sorry, I can’t hear you at the moment,” he interjected boldly, “I’m being dead!”
“Well dead men don’t snore!” I barked crankily back at him, and my colleague dissolved into laughter beside me.

Several months later, in the aftermath of a relapse, I lay paralysed in bed, mute from fatigue, stricken by migraines and hypersensitive to even the smallest sound, light or touch. Unable to sit for long or stand unaided, it was weeks since I had last taken a shower, or managed any laundry, and my bedding hadn’t been changed in almost a month. My skin was cracked and covered in sores, my nails were weak and splitting, my hair came out in clumps on the pillow and the smell of my unwashed body combined with the odour from the nearby sick bucket that doubled as a toilet was becoming unbearable. I felt like a living mind trapped in a rotting corpse.

In constant pain, and ashamed of the depths I had fallen to, I was so blinded by self-pity that I couldn’t imagine any kind of future beyond my present suffering. For one brief moment it crossed my mind that I might be better off dead – at least dead wouldn’t hurt so much – but before I had time to dwell on the thought, the words Dead Men Don’t Snore popped into my mind.

At first it was merely an unwelcome reminder of happier times, but as the hours ticked by with those words still ringing in my head, an mental image began to form of a hospital room with two patients lying side-by side, one comatose and gravely ill, the other so recently deceased the body was still warm. From a distance, with no beeping machines to distinguish between them, both patients would look equally lifeless and their chances equally hopeless. But move in closer – close enough to see the rise and fall of the living patient’s chest, feel the warmth of their breath on your hand or even hear them snore – and it becomes patently clear that no matter how ill that patient might be; no matter how small their chance of recovery, or how long it might take, there is still hope for them where for the other there is none.

At times my illness has been so severe, and my quality of life so poor, it seemed to have little hope or value. To most of my former friends and colleagues I may as well be dead: their lives have all moved on without me and I doubt most of them even think of me anymore. Only a handful of family and friends still stand close enough to see the value of a life lived within these limits, but so long as I have breath in my body I refuse to give up hope, because Dead Men Don’t Snore.

Dead Men Don’t Snore

They say life is what you make it,
don’t know if they’re right
but from here it doesn’t look as though
the future’s all that bright.
You’re all out of choices,
got nothing more to give,
in the struggle to find meaning
you’ve forgotten how to live.
Don’t settle for just existing,
you’re worth so much more,
there must still be hope for you
’cause dead men don’t snore.

Dead men don’t snore.
Dead men don’t snore.
So look to the future,
see what life still has in store.
It aint over yet,
there’s hope so long as you’ve
still got breath.
This can’t be the end
‘cause dead men don’t snore.

They say that time’s a healer,
don’t see how that’s true
when even after all these years
the past’s still haunting you.
Didn’t work out how you wanted
but failures not a crime.
Nightmares don’t last forever;
you’ve gotta wake up sometime.
So look beyond the pain now
pick yourself up off the floor,
There must still be hope for you
‘cause dead men don’t snore.

© S.R. Gilligan, Sept. 2005

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This entry was posted in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), Poetry and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Dead Men Don’t Snore

  1. Cecilia says:

    Dear Sarah,
    Thank you for sharing this. There is so much depth in you! I look forward to reading your thoughts…i have even signed to follow you!
    Cecilia

  2. eleanorjanebirdy says:

    Wow, you’ve had some seriously bad times there. I hope you’re getting all the medical and social help you deserve – sounds like you should be entitled to a few hours of a care worker if nothing else. (I don’t know where you are and what services are available).

    • I’m relatively lucky to live in the UK where the tax I’ve paid entitles me to basic state-funded care. However, these things take time (and a lot of persuasion) to put in place. When a relapse is sudden and unexpected, people who are too ill to fight for their entitlement are often left in dire straights at a time when they most need comprehensive help.

  3. JT says:

    Dear Sarah,
    Reading some of your blog here and finding similarities in us. Thank you for the recent read and comment on my blog. The depth of your thoughtful words left me knowing I would seek out more of you. I have hit follow for certain and will write a more prolonged letter to you soon. Would you mind if I put “Dead Men Don’t Snore” to music?

    • It was originally attended as song lyrics for a friends band but my musical skills didn’t stretch to a tune and the friend never got round to it either. I’d love to hear what you can do with it.

      • JT says:

        Well, I Love music and I like to sing but I can’t read any music. I do play around on a harp and a guitar and my daughter plays a bit of piano so we’ll see what we can come up with. 🙂

  4. Good for you to write so honestly about the terrible effects of chronic illness. Your blog title reminds me of a story by Norman Vincent Peale, where he is trying to help a man who feels completely overwhelmed by problems in his life. NVP offers to take the man to a place where no-one has any problems – and takes him to the cemetery.
    My daughter has found the Pillow Fighters’ Club / the Pillow Fort (online magazine written by and for people with chronic illnesses) to be a big help to her.
    Even just experiencing my daughter’s illness at second hand, I have been so grateful for my faith. I honestly don’t know how people survive without faith, when the chips really are down.
    All the very best to you!

    • I really appreciate your kind words. I have followed your daughter’s story for some time now with great admiration for her positivity and zest for life despite her illness. I am so heartened to hear of her recent progress and pray that it continues. Thanks for stopping by.

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