You and the King of Siam

Prompt: Worst Case Scenario
Of all the awful possibilities, what’s the worst possible thing that could happen to you today? Now, what about the best?


Just because I’m gonna talk about death doesn’t mean you have to be afraid. These are words and words can’t hurt you. The thing is, I’m wondering if dying is always the worst case scenario.

Did you know that doctors, when surveyed, said their death of choice would not be a heart attack, or car accident, or anything quick and accidental? They chose cancer. Cancer! Why? Because cancer takes time, and that time can be used to be with loved ones, say the things you always meant to say, to ponder your life, and to put your affairs in order. They meant no disrespect to those people and their family members who struggle in great anguish with a terrible disease. Doctors have fantasies too, and I guess their cancer death fantasy involves drifting away peacefully and painlessly. The point is, that death itself is not fearsome. The manner of death, however, is.

So I am with the doctors in one respect. I fear death as much as anyone— we are wired to fear death— but what I truly dread is twofold: dying by accident, and dying in pain. The first is a truly foolish and unproductive fear, as most are, since there is nothing I can do about an accident. Accidents are unpredictable. They are accidents. Maybe I should be prepared to poof at any second. That is, burn my diaries, clear my hard drive, tidy the bathroom, wear clean new undies at all time. Would that help, I wonder?

Those TV and film scenes where a woman is captured, tortured, sexually assaulted, and horribly murdered represent the worst case scenario. (Why are there so many of those fucking plot lines, so lovingly detailed? Why are such atrocities perpetrated in times of war? It is upsetting, but I digress.) As a very young woman I did live in some degree of fear— those kinds of stories are very hard to dismiss— and now I live in less fear of such an end. Having seen death, been with the dying, my fears have shifted a little. But I won’t word it in that way. This post is grim enough as it is.

So, my goal, not my fear, is to die “awarely”, voluntarily, without pain, and with dignity. Dying is not the worst case scenario. I won’t say it is natural so beautiful, or the start of a new “adventure” (sorry that I just did), but anyway that it is inevitable. It is universal. It is what I share with a child soldier in Burundi, my grandmother, the chef of that three Michelin star restaurant, the man without shoes, the teenager locked in their room, the King of Thailand, and you.

I wish you a good life, and an even better death.

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