funeral on ganges

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The idea is to die young as late as possible”

Ashley Montagu

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The sunshine in our days is growing shorter and I’m growing longer in morbid thoughts. It’s an annual tradition I celebrate with hot roast turkey and cranberries while giving thanks.

Death is a part of my DNA… literally.

It is for you too, and so we all think about it, some more than others.

My own “bible” says that if we lived in a world with 16 hours of daylight every day no matter the season or time of year, we’d smile and never die and never know anyone who has died. That’s the power of sunshine.

This would be my Garden of Eden. No apples of temptation, no sneaky serpents, but the running around naked part stays put. I’m convinced.

The notion of death is easy to come across these days not only because of the COVID virus but also because there’s huge amounts of scientific data spewing from research labs that are shining spotlights on the aging process (eg. stem cell treatment, senescent cell removal, CRISPR technology and others) and how we can reset the epigenetic clock and delay the onset of “not living”.

With each passing month, scientists are driving us closer to a length-of-life that more closely resembles the biblical ages of such well-known celebs as Moses and Job (or Ibrahim in Islamic faith) who reportedly lived well beyond 100.

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John Green: “You die in the middle of your life, in the middle of a sentence”

Isaac Asimov: “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”

Dylan Thomas: “Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Benjamin Franklin: “Most people die at 25 and aren’t buried until they’re 75.”

Woody Allen: “It’s not that I’m afraid to die,
I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

“I have a very low threshold of death.
My doctor says I can’t have bullets enter my body at any time.”

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So while I’m hopeful that we all surpass the century mark of aging (while remaining healthy), death is our lifetime companion, like a child’s imaginary friend that we all have but can never truly share with another.

We all must die alone in the sense that we pass through the door one at a time, like a turnstile at a sporting event.

Given its inevitability, what is THE best way to die?

Death… rapid-onset, or slowly drawn-out is shocking. There is NO good way to die because the end result is that you’re no longer alive.

There’s no easy or right answer.

I bump into folks all the time who opine on the best way to die. It’s great party chatter.

I wanna just drop dead on the sidewalk… BOOM!

A lot seem to think that a sudden demise- maybe a bullet to the head-  is the perfect solution to life’s thorniest conclusion.

It’s uncomplicated and “painless”. It’s like an “Irish goodbye”, leaving quietly out the side door of a party or bar without saying goodbye to anyone.

dead chalk outline

Others prefer the more drawn-out ending where you are conscious of your final days. The downside here is that longer deaths are often wrapped part-and-parcel with agonizing pain or discomfort, sometimes a foggy confusion.

Let me lay on my death bed for weeks, get my affairs in order, and tell my loved ones how much they’ve meant to me…

Yup, there’s no happy or easy answer, and much like the unknowable question of whether a God does or does not exist, in the majority of cases, we aren’t allowed the decision.

For me, given a game-show choice – Door A or Door B – as part artist, part-scientist… I’d take the hybrid highway, Door C… no express check-out, but also no long, drawn-out painful plod to the finish line.

My own wish is for a (lucid and relatively painless) week or two to wave from the deck of my personal Titanic.

Perhaps our aging-research scientists will be the artists that one day allow us all to become the “forever 21” Dorian Gray.

Until then, I’m going outside to do my Sun Dance for a few more hours of delicious Vitamin D.