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To Be Or Not To Be



When a loved one says “Just let me die” it should be truly distressing. We were having a lovely dinner last night when Hubby declared he was “ready to go.” He wasn’t suffering or in pain, he just decided to make the declaration. I was not receptive:

“Nope, not today. I am enjoying my meal now, perhaps tomorrow.”

I know that you must be thinking that I am a horrid person. My Hubby of 49 years has made an existential declaration and I am making light of it. This is the self-same man who thought he was dying of skin cancer 45 years ago, when it was actually eczema. This is the drama-king who told me that when it was his “time” he would get into an airplane and fly into the sun until he blacked out. Yes, Hubby did take flying lessons in the past and yes again he gave no thought to the destruction of a million dollar-plus airplane in the process. Nothing less than a dramatic finale would fit my Hubby. Hence, a proclamation of this sort over Calves liver and mashed potatoes with caramelized onions did not move me to tears. When his favorite dessert was offered, he somehow garnered the emotional strength to eat with relish (not the green pickled kind.) Do men who wish to die, normally eat with gusto?

With this exception, we had a few quiet, normal, pleasant days with no drama.

Fast forward to seven o’clock this morning I hear Hubby’s booming voice filled with anger. Somehow, I instinctively knew that sleep was not an option, and dragged myself out of bed to find out what the ruckus was about. Hubby was in bed with both fists clenched – proclaiming that Violet (whom he adores) has tried to poison him. All he did was ask for some water, and when he drank it, he could tell there was poison in there as well. He took the glass and threw it across the room, water and all. Violet was curled up on the end of the sofa trying to wait-out the tantrum. When I entered the room, I immediately asked if he had taken his calming medication yet. “Yes, an hour ago…” she informed me.

This is not good. It should have kicked in by now.

My entrance into the room gave Hubby a sounding board.

“He tried to poison me! Get that boy out of here!” (Violet is neither a “he” nor a “boy.”)

“Call the police! I want him out of here!”

Hubby went on to explain the poisoning in detail. She had taken a long time in the kitchen putting the water into the glass. Therefore, it was obvious that she had put other things in it as well. Never mind the fact that if Hubby were to actually die, Violet would lose her job and have no source of income. Logic has no place in Hubby’s mind at the moment. I tell Violet to leave the room, and as her image in the distance was still upsetting Hubby, I then ask her to go downstairs to her room. Our home is not large, and she follows our conversation from the “below-deck.” I creatively selected a sailing term… as it really does feel like our ship is sinking.

What is that boy’s name? He demands. I cleverly say “Jose.” Hubby is taken aback.

“I thought it was one of the people we use all the time.”

Nope, it was Jose. It was his first time. (Yes, I know that I lied…)

“Don’t use him again!” He continues to explode with threats of violence against the boy should he ever return. I agreed to Hubby’s request. I will not hire Jose again.

Then the assault turned on me:

“You don’t give a damn! You don’t care that he tried to poison me! My chest is burning and my throat too. It is the poison. Give me fresh water to wash it away.” Three full glasses of bottled water later, and the chest and throat are still burning. I believe him, but now that I am fully awake, I am also quite sure that water is not the cure. I realize, a bit late, that he is probably experiencing acid reflux. If I remember my college chemistry correctly, when acid and water are combined, it makes things worse. I offer Hubby some Tums to chew to reduce the acid. Now he thinks that I too, am trying to poison him. I offer to eat one as well to prove that it is not poison, but he prefers to suffer. Fifteen minutes later he is still complaining about the pain in his chest and throat. I offer him two Tums tablets to chew. As he is sure that I am not trustworthy, he only accepts one. One will help, but two would make it go away.

After two hours of ranting about what a terrible wife I am, and that his mother would never have treated him so horribly, his eyelids begin to close from the sheer exhaustion of the marathon. My head is pounding, and I lay on the sofa next to his bed to close my eyes as well After Hubby falls asleep, I retreat, totally drained, to my own bed.

Awakened a few hours later to light laughter, I cannot believe my ears. I have been reborn into another dimension where all is light and fluffy. Violet is joking with Hubby as he takes his shower. He has eaten breakfast and all is well. He remembers nothing from earlier in the morning. He does not recognize that Violet and Jose are one and the same. He announces that he needs to shave and is perched in front of his shaving mirror absorbed with becoming debonair for the ladies at the Melabev club today.

I sit at the dining table with my head in my hands. Hubby asks why I am holding my head as if it hurts.

Just a bit of a headache, I respond. He returns to shaving.

How is it possible that one human being can in a twenty-four-hour cycle go from expressing a desire to die, to a fury because he thinks that someone is trying to poison him? I could not help but think of Hamlet’s soliloquy – “To be or not to be… that is the question.”

Apparently, “being” is still preferable to “not being” even for Hubby!


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Barbara Diamond is a journalist living in Jerusalem, Israel. She has been a political activist on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people for over fifty years, having participated in political and humanitarian missions to Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union, China, and Europe to meet with world leaders on matters of concern. She has written over 100 articles for the Jerusalem Post and on her blog at The Times of Israel, hosted an English radio talk show in Jerusalem and continues mentoring others to pass on the torch of responsibility. You can reach her at [email protected] and visit her site at