What You Should Do In My Situation (A List of Two)

And face it, anyone reading this is in my situation. A high school classmate of Maurice Sendak’s, meeting him in later life, asked him how it felt to be famous. “I still have to die,” Sendak replied. Not tactful, but true. So what should you do?

  1. Make a will. You can now do this interactively on the internet, Google around & find a service that fits your preferences, then go through the process. You can save your work & return to it. It took me about four hours over two days. Doing this may prompt you to make sure that your savings & other financial arrangements are in order & especially that beneficiaries are named & recorded.
  2. Make a health care proxy. Different people want different kinds of care as they approach death. Some want to struggle as long as possible for life; others want to find the quietest most peaceful road out of town. The same sites that allow you to make a will online have the forms for a health care proxy. It will take you through the necessary steps so that you can spell out what kind of care you wish to receive. (Going through this process helped me to clarify my own thinking.) A proxy allows those responsible for your well-being  to know what you want when you can no longer tell them. It also relieves those same people of having to guess what you would want. It would be unjust to put anyone in that position.

These may seem like platitudes. Even if they are, you will be reducing the total amount of grief in the world by some small increment by taking my advice. Even if you are young.


Afternoon Nap

A frightening sunlit lightness of the body drifting upward as slowly as a bit of milkweed fluff on currents of warm air. Then off among the light-filled clouds. My old Zen teacher once said that for a realized being there would be no difference between one breath & the next, between breath & no breath.




This item in the NY Times caught my attention yesterday because I am writing a story in which a religious woman is dying. According to the study quoted, very devout people request more heroic measures to extend life than those who are not religious. One would have thought otherwise, given that the afterlife should be no great mystery for believers. The study’s authors say that the devout believe life is sacred and that they have a duty to extend it. I have another theory: the devout are more frightened of death than non-believers because they fear damnation. At least among the Christians I knew growing up, one’s salvation was never quite assured. This of course keeps people in a state of exquisite fear and trepedation throughout their lives, as they build ever more elaborate visions of paradise to distract themselves from their obsessive fear of eternal punishment. Or if they don’t fear damnation, perhaps they fear nothingness, which would give the lie to their lives as believers. This is the sort of belief system that eats away at life by inducing continual anxiety, then in a final irony desperately clings to life in the face of death. This is the way my mother lived and died and I find it profoundly depressing.