AT LEAST AS GOOD AS
They’re talking about death on the radio again. I haven’t yet climbed out of bed and been allowed to get ready for work before I’m reminded, by a stranger, of my own mortality. She doesn’t mind. She lies next to me listening intently.
‘Everyone has to die sometime.’ She says, as I start my complaining.
The voice on the radio enthusiastically but soberly explains about how they have now come up with a system to accurately predict how long terminally ill patients have left to live. Whatever this system is, they say, it’s at least as good as a doctor and a nurse getting their heads together. At least as good as – what does that really mean? I start moaning again about why we have to listen to this sort of nonsense first thing in the morning. She starts to remind me, half joking, half serious how I never face up to things, how I’d always rather put my head in the sand.
Then she goes on to say how all men are children at heart and never seem to want to grow up. I take this all on the chin but then I ask her how she wants to die.
‘What do you mean?’ She says.
‘If you had a choice, how would you want to die?’
‘I’ve never really thought about it.’ She says. And that’s when I knew I had one over her.
‘I know exactly how I want to go.’ I say.
So I told her about one last slow walk along a river bank at dusk, with street lamps reflecting on the water and the waft of fish and chips being carried in the air. Then, returning home, I want to be on my own, it’s a personal thing dying I say. I want to play my favourite vinyl record on an old fashioned record player and sit back in my most comfortable chair. Then to close my eyes and slowly drift away. She looks at me taking it all in.
‘And now,’ I say, ‘it’s up to you to come up with something at least as good as that.’