Death is a Business Best Left to Others

by Catherine Breese

death is for others1They say that if you want to know how long you’ll live, you should look at your parents and your grandparents for a reliable indicator.  I’ll give you a moment to ponder.

This sort of inquiry is not likely to result in contentment, so it’s probably one of those thoughts that is best chew on for a few moments and then spit out.  But for now, let’s do a little tasting.

Recently I listened to a conversation between a daughter and her father on a podcast called Roam Schooled.  The daughter had done some math and concluded that on her birthday, her life was approximately 10% complete, meaning that she had 90% to go.  Then she did the math for her dad, and his life was 60 or 65% complete.

The amount of time you and I have left is finite, but we don’t get to know what that amount is.  This makes some people do crazy things like go to church, jump out of airplanes, have affairs, run marathons, have children, or simply become melancholy.  The rest of us drink.

When I was in the tenth grade, many, many percentages ago, my mother had a heart attack and we thought she was going to die, but she was saved by surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic.  My mom is 85 years old now, and unfortunately, has succumbed entirely to the mental deterioration of Alzheimer’s.  She can no longer feed herself or speak coherently.   My dad died from cancer at the age of 56.  His mother died in her forties.  My other grandparents made it to their early eighties, but not without senility and nursing homes at the end.  These are the facts, and I can only draw so many convincing conclusions from this genetic picture. None of them are attractive, and, as my friends all know, I care deeply about aesthetics.

Bryan’s grandmother is in her mid-nineties and she recently survived a bout of pneumonia plus a staph infection and returned home from the hospital, alive!  Yes, Bryan has a living grandmother.  Most of mine died when I was a teenager.  It occurs to me that he is almost guaranteed to live long past me, maybe 20 years. That will be good for him.  Of course, he will need to find another person to make his life clean, delicious, and fabulous the way that I have.

Frankly, death is a real mother-effer. It is best kept at arm’s length if you want to enjoy your existence at least a little.  It has been my experience that even those of us who have a grounded acceptance of it are almost always caught off guard. You are tooling along…slaving for the man or wandering aimlessly or fulfilling a higher purpose and then boom: a ravenous grizzly bear lopes out from behind a rock and eats your head. We are surprisingly shocked when someone dies, no matter the cause.  In an age that is relatively free from plagues and super-volcanoes, we have the expectation that we and all our friends will just continue to exist. My own death is easier to imagine. death is for others 2

A boss that I had a few year back, one whom I detested, died suddenly a few weeks ago. He was a mean and egotistical boss who picked favorites and made employees cry on purpose.  He died while jogging.  His obituary didn’t glorify his life, though.  It mentioned his bad golf scores, egotism, and harsh disposition.  I don’t know who wrote it, maybe a disgruntled daughter.  It suited him.  My daughter has promised that she will write many charming exaggerations about my kindness and beauty, and for that, I am grateful.

Artistic, romantic, beautiful deaths are rare. I expect mine to be as ugly and unpleasant as most peoples’. I do find I am comforted in the notion that there will be great food and fancy cocktails at the occasion.  And that my death will probably inconvenience an ex-husband in some way, and well, that’s just bonus.

PS  This just in.  My cousin Sue reports that my grandfather’s sister, Aunt Lee, lived to be 99. Good news, eh?


*art work modified using PicMonkey from “The Skeleton Dance” 1929 Disney short, and Flipnote Hatena


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