Tag Archives: family

What to Do When It’s Time to Die

8 Mar

Death touched my family this last week. This is the closest it’s come, but the relationship was distant enough that I feel melancholy, but not threatened. That said, I lay in bed this morning sifting through cultural memes about what mindset I should adopt when facing death. You know, those “live each day as if it’s your last” or “eat, drink, and be merry” or “last chance to save—sale ends tomorrow.”

So what would I do if this was my last day? I certainly wouldn’t be sitting here writing this. In fact, the computer wouldn’t even get turned on. Work, email, video games, Facebook, the endless halls of distraction afforded by the web—all seem trite and pointless when set against one’s mortality. International affairs, sports, local news, movie trailers—all my usual Internet haunts are now hollow and joyless. The only thing I’d consider is watching Whose Line clips on YouTube. Yeah, I might do that on my last day.

Meal-wise, I’d be eating out because a healthy diet won’t do me any good now, and who wants to die with dirty dishes in the sink? I’d hit a breakfast buffet, and get a teriyaki bowl for lunch. For dinner… I’ll decide that later.

Now, how to spend the day? Exercise—like jogging or the gym—is unappealing, but I would like a hike in the crisp sunshine. I wouldn’t go too far afield in case I expire on an obscure mountain trail and end up traumatizing some poor Boy Scouts on a day hike, or requiring the Forest Service to spend $450,000 (or whatever) to extract my remains by helicopter. I think the local nature park would suffice. Maybe take a drive out to the bird sanctuary south of town.

Interestingly, my lifelong media obsession has dried up. Movies and books would take up too much of my day, TV is inane (I’ve long known that), and music—what fits the mood? Dance music is about living, rock music is about anger and alienation, classical music takes too long, hymns are perfect for reflection and contentment. But I want to spend the day living, not reflecting. To my surprise, I chose Nanci Griffith’s cover album, Other Voices, Other Rooms, but I’d skip the really depressing tracks.

What I should do is spend my last day surrounded by family and friends. But it’s short notice to set up a big party, and telling them why they should come see me would poison any chance at a fun gathering. I thought about calling them up (totally out of the blue) to chat, but if I didn’t share my news, they’d feel guilty for having a meaningless conversation, or angry at me for keeping them in the dark. Instead, I think I should spend an hour or two writing thank-you notes by hand—“thank you for being part of my life” sorts of things.

Of course, there’s also the urge to devote myself to a day of reckless abandon, law-breaking, drug use, telling jerks what I really think of them, blurring my mind with booze. But I’ve always preferred clarity and peace, so why ruin it now?

In the end, I suppose I’d spend the day doing and saying nice things for others, whether I knew them or not. Picking up litter during my hike, opening the door for strangers at the restaurants, being patient with children and strangers, being sincere and open with family and friends. I assume God knows I’m coming, so I’d keep in touch with Him through the day in case there was any last-minute business He wanted me to take care of.

But of course, I don’t expect to die tomorrow. So I’ve finished my heart-healthy breakfast, worked on some B2B marketing brochures, and written a blog post. I think I’ll go for a walk this afternoon, though, before the kids get home from school.