Rigor Mortis Setting In

I seem to be switching between the effects of rigor mortis inching into my life and my gradually healing knees. The change is as pronounced as dark and light. Oh, wait — the change is all about dark and light! Or rather, the relative inactivity of night and the relative activity of day.

Sometimes when I have to get up in the middle of the night, I am so stiff, I can barely inch along using the wall for balance, and I wonder if a walker is not far behind. I have gotten in the habit of stretching a bit before I get out of bed, which helps, as well as making sure my legs can hold me before I start making my way to the bathroom.

And then, the daylight comes, and I wonder why I presumed there was problem. As long as I don’t sit too long in one position, I’m fine. Actually, more than fine. I walked almost five miles today, something I haven’t done in a very long time — maybe a couple of years. The last quarter of a mile today was a bit draggy, and I expected to feel sore the rest of the day, but apparently, my body is waiting until tonight when the rigors of mortis will once again make themselves felt.

I do know, of course, that one does not “catch” rigor mortis while one is still alive, but aging does make it feel as if death and those rigors are slowly creeping in.

I’m hoping, of course, that the nighttime stiffness will eventually dissipate a bit as my knees continue to get stronger, but even if the status remains quo, I will still have my daily walk to sustain me.

I think it helps, in a way, that I live close to an assisted living facility as well as an unassisted facility for older folk because I see so many people using walkers. It keeps me walking a bit more than I would normally feel like doing, perhaps in an effort to store up that feeling of independence in case I get to the point where I’m unable to depend only on my own legs. And, of course, it reminds me that using the ability to roam while I can will help insure that I will remain ambulatory into my elder years.

But what may or may not happen later on isn’t important. What is important is that today I walked. Today I was able to challenge myself.

Today I lived.

Hopefully, that feeling of living will be something to remember tonight when I am slowly creeping through the dark hall, like some sort of half-dead ghoul, in answer to the needs of my body.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

8 Responses to “Rigor Mortis Setting In”

  1. rheashowalter Says:

    As I have gotten older I have noticed how important regenerative sleep is. I can be hurting and go to bed and wake up in the morning feeling great. The same is true with starting to get a cold or some other ailment. I think we have downgraded sleep in our society and made being awake for hours something to be praised. I worked 50-60 hours a week for years and had three kids, a house to take care of, etc. I did not sleep much. I now realize how important it is. Maybe if you are stiff in the middle of the night you simply have not gotten enough restorative sleep!

  2. rami ungar the writer Says:

    Careful, Pat. You’re starting to sound like me. That can be a very dangerous thing, especially in this month of all months.

  3. Judy Galyon Says:

    I understand your feelings all to well. Are you taking anything like glucosamine chondroitin, or something else over the counter to help with the stiffness?? Congrats on walking 5 miles. I wish I could walk 1.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Yes, I am taking glucosamine and chondroitin. The surgeon told me that I will be getting arthritis because of my arm breakage, and I’m trying to keep that from happening.

  4. mickeyhoffman Says:

    I find I have aches and stuff at night that don’t happen during the day. I asked my doctor and she said, “Stuff happens at night.” There you have a medical opinion 🙂 Don’t let it freak you out too much!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      When I injured my knee a few months ago and couldn’t walk for weeks, it happened at night when I was asleep. So yes. Stuff happens at night. So good to have a medical opinion!

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