A few months ago, I went to one of our local “Death and Coffee” meetings. This discussion group is modeled on the international Death Café movement, about which much can be found on the internet if you want to know more than my personal quirky take on the whole thing. deathcafe.com
Previously, I’ve blogged about death, and how well I’ve avoided it so far. I seem to not fear it; who knows whether that will hold when the real thing arrives? Until then, it’s all talk, but some of the most interesting talk we humans have. We hold that our conversations on death are a special claim to superiority over the rest of the animal kingdom. Never mind grieving elephants or the eloquent 4 AM howl my dog let out, 48 hours after Will died, which told me exactly how she felt about his death.
I had my coffee at a table with a small group of about six others, including two dear friends. We had as our conversation starter this question: What would you do if you knew for sure that you had three months to live? My memory now of the discussion boils down to everyone agreeing on some version of “I would quit doing things I don’t like doing and spend all my time enjoying my family and friends.” Well, I’ve been working hard at quitting stuff I don’t like and doing only stuff I do like for a couple of years now. That’s going fine for the most part, except that living is still hard work. From what I’ve seen of people dying, death can be painful difficult work, not what anyone really wants to be doing. Although, here’s a simple truth: sometimes it’s unbelievably beautiful.
And then, there is the hanging out with loved ones part… I didn’t chime in on that expectation. After thinking this over for a few days, I realized that if I had a short amount of time left in this life, what I would want would be to hole up somewhere lovely and comfortable, and to write as many words as I could. Finish these novels, tell my few untold important stories, outline my life, polish up my legacy of word-farming. If dear people wanted to come by to bring me comfort foods or to rub my feet, that would be okay. If I knew the exact day and moment of death on the calendar, surely I might save some days at the end to wallow in farewell hugs and kisses, but they’re not my priority.
Another realization from that evening’s conversation: I’ve come to a stage of life now where suicide has totally lost its appeal. Having had imaginary flings with that death devil in the past, I’m relieved to have arrived at this point, where I know death is headed my way. It will catch up soon enough without me chasing it down. So, I’ll reconsider death when it’s on that horizon, hopefully with faith, love, and dignity.