"Those were hard things for me to come by, and I offer them to you for what they may be worth." - Toby Wolff



Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Good Death


There is no single best kind of death. A good death is one that is "appropriate" for that 'being'. It is a death in which the hand of the way of dying slips easily into the glove of the act itself. It is in character, ego-syntonic. It, the death, fits the 'dying'. It is a death that one might choose if it were realistically possible for one to choose one's own death. - Edwin Shneidman, A Commonsense Book of Death


I thought he was dead. I reached down, wanting to touch him, wanting to feel the delicacy I saw. But my gentle stroke brought an arch to his body and my error was realized. Not dead, but passing over. Surely now I could hear him gasp...labor in these last moments. He was on his back, dying like a turtle...like a slow, heavy turtle. This was no good death. To die on the doorstep of an ugly building on an ugly swath of cement, could not be a good death. To be grounded in the path of footfalls, people who come and go and rarely look anywhere but into the screens of their cell phones...could not be a good death.

I thought of burial, perhaps to honor him. I wanted to honor this dragonfly for Marion. I reached down, but saw movement again and I was afraid. I have never been comfortable keeping watch with the dying. There is a choreography to it that I have not learned. I am even less comfortable with the dead. I remember my husband touching his dead father's hand...holding it. I could not. I remember his mother, and my sister in laws who dressed her embalmed body, and set her hair...loving in it...but I could not. The shell of a person frightens me. They are no longer of it, nor can I be. Not yet.

I got a piece of paper and gently turned him over onto the page. His leg scritched against it momentarily, as if to write, perhaps an epitaph. Burial now seemed a ludicrous idea. Carrying him carefully against the shield of my body, concerned the breeze would send him free falling, I preserved his pristine wings and unmarked body.  I found a shaded section of the parking lot with foliage he could decay into with dignity. I left him, coward that I am, to die there in the arms of a flower. But I think he prefered it, having been at home with her all his life.
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22 comments:

  1. Annie,
    A good death never waits for you i guess...because there's hardly one that exists..i love this piece and reading something as good after a long time unwrapped me from my shell...i'll be cleaning my lenses once again...and scouring walls for a view..maybe your wall too...

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  2. Well said...

    Well written...

    Death is never easy...

    The husband of a good friend of mine died in a plane crash this morning...

    ... so I just watched something similar to this play out at their house...

    ~shoes~

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  3. I do that,too! Butterflies, birds, worms, insects of all kinds, put them in an out of the way spot to die in shade and quiet. Glad to know I'm not the ony goofy one!

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  4. Manik - My wall expects you. Your poetry is the shoulder of a child. I see you so young. I rest there, until you tire. Thank you.

    Shoes - You have had much death it seems. Sometimes I imagine death is easiest for the dying. Certainly not those who must watch. Certainly not for those left here. I am so sorry for another loss. I feel you with many of late. Not just people.

    Linda - You'll find them no goofier (is that a word?) than in here Linda! However, I am deathly afraid of bugs, living and dead. For me to move this one at all...and a very large bug it is...is only a testiment to my friend Marion, and how she has touched me with her love for these critters.

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  5. I love the return to the flower.

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  6. This is tremulous and sadly beautiful. May I share it to my Facebook page?

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  7. I enjoyed this so much, especially as I hear of the endings more often of those beginning to fall away. I hope someone is around to place me someplace nice, near the end, someplace other than a hospital.

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  8. most people, most writers, would have walked over this moment, as i have done countless times. once i picked up a worm clearly going to die in the sunny middle of the sidewalk but when i picked up him he squirmed opposition, so i set him back down where he was. it's interested how these insects concern us. the moment of death seems like a profound moment.

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  9. Liza - Wouldn't we all wish to be cradled so in death. I placed him exactly as he was in life. He looked alive. He died that way.

    Tim - You are so gracious. Yes, of course. Are we FB friends? If not, friend me will ya? (Annie Biondi Stevenson)

    Anthony - Isn't that the truth. Beginnings and endings. Not so much the last moments, and I'm pretty sure those are the most truthful ones of our entire lives.

    Ed - Most insects don't concern me. Really...I am so fearful of them and would squash 'em as easily as save 'em. But Marion has a special relationship with these critters. I had to do right be her, and their connection :)

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  10. very,,,well, just "very",,,,

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  11. Turned him over onto the page... oh yeah. That's the stuff right there. xo

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  12. Dragonflies are the coolest bugs. I think God made them just for fun, like He did with beer and women.

    ;)

    - Eric

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  13. Lorraine - Thanks girlie.

    Glenn - Thank you "very" kindly, Sir.

    Dana - Scary that. He was still movin'. I'm such a pussy (or so says my trainer. Friggin workout Nazi!)

    Eric - Second time I've heard that. And I disagree. Were women made for man? Absolutely. Just for fun? Come on! Have you had childbirth? Menstrual cramps? For fun my arse! Blerk! Beer...well, I guess that was probably just for fun. Wine too!

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  14. I can't bear to see almost anything die. Spiders and rodents are the exceptions. how sweet of you to choose the flower. I think it mattered.

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  15. I don't know about the perfect death, but I do know this is a perfect post. Lovely.

    Dragonflies are among the most beautiful creatures. Your gesture, placing him/her in a flower, was unendurably kind and poetic.

    Dragonly in many cultures symbolizes change, including physical death and the dealth of illusions.

    Ditto your response to Eric. Thank you for that!

    And thank you for this.

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  16. Amy and Jamie -
    I checked today, and found the flower void of my dragonfly. I looked around and saw he had blown into a cobweb below, his color gone, a wing broken. I thought again of burial. I am not sure now, if I did it right.

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  17. absolutely beautifully written.

    i think it is not to have a good death but rather to have lived a good life. and that is easy for me to say only because i do not hold a dying other's hand. (yet~)

    xo
    erin

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  18. Erin - Seems there has been much death in and associated with my life the last couple years. I suppose that is part and parcel to my age. With ever increasing frequency I will see those I know and love die, until I join them.

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  19. Death is not simple, nor glorious in any light. One can pass from sickness, tragedy or the giving of ones life for another. Now regardless the outcome, someone whether a brother, a sister, mother or father are lost and mourned. Some, find closure in a simple touch, others need something physical ( lock of hair). Others may find honor through a personal display of love by preparing the body. So that their loved one, ( albiet their shell ) looks beautiful for those who mourn, not the Lord. To run from death is fuedal, just like trying to stop the Sun from rising. So by facing death head on, as uncomfortable as it is, is facing life. No successful person in history has in any capacity, ever triumphed by not facing the Giants and walls in minds. Death is a part of life, you cannot run from it, nor do you need to dwell on it. But as in life, you need to hit your fears head on, not hide behind anything or anyone that will make you in the end die anyway. Not in the body, but rather the death of your soul. James Stevenson

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  20. What is worse, the death of a loved one, parent, child or friend, or death of ones feeling, love, respect and joy? Having held my Fathers hand in life and death, making her BEAUTIFUL while she lay still, because I honored her and loved her. I find the silence of ones soul and spirit in life is worse than the silence of death.
    Life is hard, love is hard, death is hard. To fear any of these is worse than death.
    Sister in Law

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  21. Which sister in law is this?

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Thank you for listening.