The Face of Death

On Thursday morning, November 19, 2009, I was at the Hilton casino. I was there for the Global Gaming Expo and to write a review for my new web site, Wizard Of Vegas. I had just finished playing video poker and was on my way to the player reward counter to ask a question about the rate at which points are earned. Just before I got there, I saw a commotion right in front of it, next to a slot machine. I took a closer look, and I witnessed an elderly man attempting to give an elderly woman mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. It didn't look like he knew how to do it properly. He said to somebody else, "She's not breathing." I have taken classes in CPR from time to time and considered volunteering to help. However, when I got a bit closer I saw the woman was a pale shade of blue, especially the lips, her eyes were closed, her mouth was open in a very crooked way, and her body was sprawled all over in angles that the body normally doesn't make, especially for elderly people. There is no gentle way to say that the woman was stone cold dead.

There was no doubt about it. I'm normally a very analytical person, but I just knew I had just seen the face of death. Nothing would have helped her. Everybody around knew there was no sense in trying. An employee brought over a wheelchair but didn't stay long; she ultimately turned around and went back with it empty. It did not take long for the paramedics to come over. After checking over the body for a few minutes, they put her on a gurney and wheeled her out. A minute later, somebody passing through would not have known anything had ever happened.

Aside from an open casket funeral I went to about two years ago, I had never seen a dead body before. In my opinion, the open casket didn't really count. They obviously used a lot of make up, because the body looked neither alive nor dead. Fake is the best word I can think of to describe it. It just was not the man I had known all my life.

Back in the mid-nineties, I was an extra on the television show Homicide. I played a pathologist in the medical examiner's lab. One of the less fortunate extras had to play a dead body. They had him change clothes, and then the make up artists spent at least an hour applying makeup to make him look like a dead gunshot victim. The Homicide guy looked like dead bodies always do in the shows and movies like "Six Feet Under" and "Eyes Wide Shut," like somebody asleep with make up to make the skin look more pale and matted.

The uncensored version of death is much different, at least in this case. Her skin was 90% white and 10% blue. An exception was the lips, which were about 50/50 white and blue. There was none of the normal flesh color. From her facial features, I would guess the woman was Asian, but from the color of her skin, you would have no idea. It made me wonder how long she had been dead. Certainly a dead body could not go unnoticed at a slot machine in a busy area of the casino for long. However, the degree to which she had changed color in likely a short time was remarkable.

Besides being a learning experience, a feeling went to the pit of my stomach that is difficult to put into words. Minutes before that body held a life. Somebody I never knew but probably a mother and grandmother to many. The decisions she made and the life she led probably affected thousands of people to varying degrees. Then, in an instant, it was all over. All that remained was a lifeless pile of flesh and bones beside a slot machine.

It made me contemplate the frailty of life and the meaning of it all. What if the last thing I ever touched or saw was a slot machine? Why was I even in the casino at that time? Has my life been a waste? Should I be spending more time with loved ones, while I can, and less time writing about casinos and analyzing stupid games? Is the world better or worse because of me? Do I contribute more than I consume? Am I living life abundantly, or am I wasting it? In terms of achieving true happiness, have I failed? After about 15 minutes, I decided I had had enough introspection for one day, so I made my way to the players club counter, and asked my question about the rate at which points are earned in video poker.