Meditations on death

Part of my personal belief system is the certainty that the time of each of our deaths was written when we were born; and can not be changed.

Where you die, whom you die with, those can all be changed to a greater or lesser degree. 

How you die and what you die for … ah.

This I learned from my father long before Herger the Joyous lectured about death and fear on the silver screen.

Understand that when it is time for you to die, you are going to die.  Whether you believe — as I do — that your time was written, or you believe that we are only allotted a certain number of breaths or heartbeats, or you believe that the gods blink, and the lights go out … you are going to die sometime.

You cannot change this.

You can, however, change how you die, or what you die for.  You can change what your death is for.

When your time to die comes up, and there’s some critter standing there with a box-cutter, or a hammer, or an AR-15 — understand that if it is your time, you are going to die shot in the back, or you are going to die getting trampled by panicked fellow citizens, or you are going to die from a stress-induced heart-attack … but it is your time, and you are going to die.

It is far better to die screaming your defiance and beating a critter’s head in, than to die cowering in a dark closet, with the smell of piddle and vomit filling your nostrils.

This is true for men; it is true for women, for high-school students —

— and it is doubly true for those who swore an oath to protect their fellow citizens.

If you so fear death that you are unable to change how you meet death — you need to re-evaluate your life.

And if you are a peace officer, and you aren’t prepared to die well … not only should you re-evaluate your life, but you need to turn in your badge and seek employment doing something else.

When violence comes, and brings your death with it — die well, for that is the only thing you can change about your death.


Why don't you go ...

34 thoughts on “Meditations on death”

  1. While I plan to be here for the heat death of the Universe, and the wrap party afterwards, if it does come down to that situation… Well, I came into this world kicking, screaming, and covered in someone else's blood. I'm not opposed to leaving it the same way.

  2. "When violence comes, and brings your death with it — die well, for that is the only thing you can change about your death."

    Well that is hard to beat. I bow to your wisdom.

  3. Damn skippy.

    I used similar logic with my loved ones when I enlisted during time of war. I'd much rather have bought it via firefight or ID vs car accident at home. Luckily, wasn't my time.

    But you called it, when your number is up, it's up. Die well.

  4. What Cybrludite said. Being 50 this summer, I know my number's up sometime. I'd like to die peacefully in my own bed, in my own home. But if push comes to shove and the time is NOW, and NOW means some critter has to deal with me, then so be it. I just hope I can face that time bravely and with honor, no matter what.

  5. I'm not sure I understand. It's almost like you are saying there's no point in trying to try to prevent accidents or illness because if it's time for you to die you will and if it isn't then you won't. But that can't be what you mean because otherwise you would not care about the deputy who didn't enter the school. Like I said, I don't understand.

  6. Dog, as usual, you put into words what I know by instinct or 'feeling'.

    If, by my death, someone else can live or a bad person can be thwarted, then my death was well spent. And I know my beloved is waiting for me, whether in heaven or Valhalla, and I want him to be proud of the way I carried on after he went on ahead.

  7. To Portia,
    As someone who spent decades working with hospice patients, I came to realize that my efforts were not about them dying well. Rather, they were about helping them to live as well as they could until the moment the inevitable occurred. It not only helped them, but those they left behind.
    As I read the Dog's post, I found myself substituting "living" for "dying" in some portions of what he wrote for that reason. If you do so, perhaps you will appreciate his meaning more.
    Or, I am projecting. In which case, never mind.

  8. I had that conversation with myself years ago after the adrenaline dump wore off and the shakes abated.

    Nobody get out of here alive.

    Live well, die well and when people remember you, hope they smile.

    Inshalla Baby!


  9. I'm reminded of the Roman Centurion who was found in a cave near Pompeii. He had covered a mother & child with his shield, in the back of the cave. Then he turned to face the wrath of Vesuvius, sword in hand.

    He died well.

  10. Amen LawDog. Frankly, given a choice of ways to go, I'd rather go out with my boots on "in harness". That doesn't seem to be my destiny, but, as you say, anyone can choose to die well. I sincerely hope that when the time does come for me to go down in history that I go down in a worthy manner. Since death is part of life, it follows that to die well, one must live well to some extent.

  11. To Portia-
    Idiot. "The moving finger writes and having writ moves on." What happens in between is under your control. It's only the time of death, not the in-between that is writ.

  12. I went in for a cardiac operation not too long ago. People kept asking me why I wasn't nervous about it. I said that if my time was up, then it was up and that worrying about it was pointless.

    I went into the hospital with a smile and cracking jokes, determined to live the next few minutes well.

  13. I live in the hope that if I am ever confronted with the kind of vermin that shoots up schools and shopping malls I have the courage to at least TRY to beat his head in with whatever is handy. I won't succeed, in all probability. I'm a slew foot; one of the naturally awkward. Which is why I don't own a gun (or a power saw). But I do get angry. And if I get angry enough, all gets are off. The bullying I was subjected to in grade school pretty much ended when I picked up my main tormenter by the neck, banged his head on a wall, and told him that if he didn't leave me alone I would kill him. He believed me. I believed me.

    So I pray, Dear Lord if the day has to come, let there be a fire extinguisher in line of sight. Or a 2×4. Or a mop. SOMETHING.

    Extra points for a baseball bat.

  14. Have a t-shirt my oldest daughter had made for me many years ago…"When I die, I intend to go out exactly as I came in; kicking, screaming and covered in someone else's blood!"…still wear that ole' shirt!

  15. in 'the last battle' one of the narnia book series by c. s. lewis, the leader of the centaurs, whose name i cannot recall, says something like;
    'a treasure affordable to the poorest of men is an honorable death.'
    i am a big sissy, and i may go out screaming, but it won't be as a berserker but as a coward.
    sorry. i just am not brave.
    i do hope i could be brave to face anything threatening my child.

  16. I should have died thrice in the service of my country. Doc and some high speed trauma surgeons stopped it. I figure that with a bum back and bum knee I ain't running very far. I'll shoot LCP dry and then use the fork screw on my Swiss Army Knife if it comes to it.

  17. I have spent most of my life in public service. In the days gone by we used to talk about "signing the ultimate contract" for military, police, and fire services. Simply put you contracted to some form of governmental entity to protect the public encompassed within the confines of that entity up to the lying of ones life on the line. For this you were paid (sort of) given benefits for you and yours and in the event of your paying the ultimate price your family was taken care of in your absense. I am not advocating a reckless sprint into danger but if you ask the question " can I save lives by my actions?" and the answer is, yes, and " will someone die if I do not act NOW?" and again the answer is yes, then sprint on good person, sprint on. Today it seems we care more about law suites, higher workers compensation costs and keeping out of the line of fire than keeping up our part of the ultimate contract.

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  19. Thinking of the 13 Servicemembers who dies in Kabul, and contemplating Jhiao Bribem's watch fixated attendance at the formal transfer ceremony in Delaware, led me back to this post of yours.

    Mr. Dog, thank you for your thoughts. I pray that I never discover if I would run towards, or away from, the sound of the guns. Being a civilian, my duty in that regard is quite limited. But I wish that epiphany on no one.

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