IN SEARCH OF DEATH
by Olive Mullet
Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me.
—So why are you working at Hospice?
Death is my thing. I’ve read all the books on it, most of them disappointing. Julian Barnes’ Nothing to be Frightened Of, for example. All he talks about is his fear of death, and he quotes philosophers on death.
—You are not here just to give massages.
No. I want to find out what it’s like to die.
—So you ask the dying what they are feeling?
—And—what have you discovered?
If the person was nervous in life, he’s nervous about death. If he was calm and accepting, he goes “gentle into that good night.” The fighters for life were fighters in life. Of course, they eventually lose. And maybe they did in life too.
—And some may just want to die—too much pain. So, which one are you?
Probably a fighter. I’m certainly not nervous, and people tell me I’m not calm either. I keep my life full, with exercise, reading and working with my husband.
—And does this place affect you when you get home?
No, in fact my husband and I have a laugh about the “deaders,” as we call them and their various reactions to what’s happening to them. How can they be surprised? What good’s a fuss?
—Ah—why are you fascinated? Are you ill?
Not’s far as I know. Whenever I go to the doctor, I ask him, What’ll I die of? It’s like this oak tree right against my house. I’ve been living with that lethal weapon all my life. One good lightning strike, and it will explode. (pause) I read about this doctor who did test after test on his bowel movements. It took years, but he found out the ailment he had. I wish I could do that— it’s because I’ve been healthy all my life that death doesn’t bother me. It interests me.
—(whisper) Could you ask about my situation? No—(louder) I read Julian Barnes’ book. From what I remember, it is as good as possible on the subject.
He wasted a lot of time on how he and his mother—I think it was—were deciding how they’d like to die. That’s an insane waste of time.
—But you are a planner—
Yep, already planned the funeral—all the music and the poetry, a memorial, not a funeral since I’m not religious. Then I’d want a balloon ride for my ashes and a private mausoleum—yep, I’m able to pay for that.
—So are you rich? Famous?
Yep, lots of money, and aim to be famous.
—And in the meantime?
No need to change my life. I’ve filled all the hours, ever since I needed to figure out what to do with free time, like weekends.
My patient died last night. No, no, don’t tell me more.
You say she was smiling. Impossible—she of the ruptured stomach?
Olive Mullet, pictured on right, is a retired English professor who taught composition and humanities for twenty-five years at Ferris State University in Michigan. She is currently a book reviewer for NewPages.com. Her work has appeared in Red Cedar Review, Sliverofstone, Dark Matter, The Cossack Review, Cigale Literary Magazine, Emerge Literary Journal, and others.
Image credit: Ulrich Joho on Flickr