Waiting to Die

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Being of Italian descent, Joe and I never put butter on bread -- just gravy -- thick and hot tomato sauce on Italian bread.

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Sue, with her proud British heritage, taught us to keep butter in a cabinet so it can actually spread on bread. We have enjoyed more than 40 years of bread topped with spreading butter because of Sue. Sue continually boasted of her direct lineage to the Mayflower Pilgrims and Governor Bradford, the organizer of the First Thanksgiving. We would celebrate every Thanksgiving with Sue's authentic pilgrim-inspired turnip recipe. Even though it tasted to me like I licked Plymouth Rock, in deference to Sue's heritage and my patriotism I would taste it, albeit sparingly and commend the chef.

That same week, my sister and I went to our local funeral home with our mom to plan her death. My mom has been pestering "the kids" to do this for several years. While she is nearing 87, she is in great health. Understanding that her superwoman days are limited, my mom wanted to plan her death on her terms. Cremation was not even an option, as my mom, widowed at 41 years old, is comforted in knowing that someday she will be reunited to the right of my dad six feet under. Anticipating a challenging few hours as we discussed her death, I informed my mom that picking out a casket was akin to purchasing a vehicle -- although this one won't be available for a trade-in.

I wasn't too far off. Personalized accessories and upgrades to adorn the casket, from golf clubs to the Last Supper, were available. In keeping with her style, my mom chose a classy column adornment fit for royalty. Mission Accomplished. Now, we wait for my mother to die. I anticipate that I am not alone, as my day-to-day activities are cluttered with too many unaccomplished "to do" lists.

I am so busy getting through life's mandates that I rarely take time to enjoy the beauty of a warm, sunny day or hear the doves chirping outside my office window as I frantically tap my keyboard. A sister-in-law and friend's much too early death and a planning of my mom's future death have given me pause. At these rare times, I become philosophical and reflective about the meaning of life as I too wait to die.

Because being mad is all the rage.

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Even though you take a hot shower before bed, by the time you wake up your back has decided to take the day off. And finally, it gets so bad, you have to lie down on your once neatly made bed, remove half your clothing, and apply some ice to it while listening to mindless music and cursing the day when some enterprising hominid decided it would be a good idea to change from the arboreal life to a bipedal one.


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Big mistake. The next one was the invention of agriculture, but never mind. We were talking about the back and its vicissitudes. Nevertheless, a little later, you decide to take your body out of a spin. How humiliating — to be passed by these old biddies! You think about the days in junior high when you were a track star, setting school records in the dashes and anchoring the relay races, which you used to run in your bare feet.

Then you ran like the wind.

These days, you are merely winded after trudging a hundred yards. When you can go no further, you turn around only to become aware of still another distressing sight. Actually, it is your sight — or lack of it. What is that ahead of you?

Waiting to Die?

Is it a woolly mammoth, a Saint Bernard or merely a burly ex-football player? Where are the eyes of yesteryear? Gone missing. I used to be able to pedal reasonably fast and for a long time. But lately someone must have snuck in to affix some kind of a brake to the bike since suddenly it seems that I am pumping uphill at an acute angle. Heart rate is up, speed is down, my old distance marks are a treasured memory, which I can only mourn.

All I am aware of now is the sound of someone huffing and puffing. At last the torture is over, but now I really have to piss. That damn enlarged prostate of mine has no patience — it must be satisfied now! Of course, these days, my urinary stream is a sometimes thing. It starts, it stops, it pauses to refresh itself, it pulses, stops, dribbles, starts up again with what seems to be its last mighty effort to produce something worthwhile and finally drips itself into extinction.

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But wait. What is that? Pulling up my pants, I can feel some urine on my left thigh. How the hell did it get in there? Is there some kind of silent secondary stream that runs down the side of my leg when I am otherwise preoccupied with trying to keep my penile aim from going astray? Well, you get the idea.

Waiting Around to Die

Life is no longer a bowl of cherries, or if it is, some of them are turning rotten. And of course I now also have to wonder what will be next? I mean, after I die, assuming I will ever get around to it.

And what they have told me has been, I am frank to admit, profoundly reassuring. Another man said that if you were to describe the feelings of peace that accompanied death, you would have to write it in letters a mile high. All this might sound hyperbolic, but I have heard such sentiments from many near-death experiencers.

It was a total immersion in light, brightness, warmth, peace, security….

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