It's an old question and maybe a bad one,
whether it is better to die fast,
leaping into the snow-fed lake,
or slow, standing in the shallow end
until the body adjusts to the cold.
A heart attack takes out a man
on his vacation. He goes to bed early,
a little tired. His wife stays in the lodge before the fire,
yakking to strangers. She's in her element,
and he is happy to leave her to it.
Some say a swift end is a blessing --
he didn't even see it coming.
But death continues taking,
the wife forever rewinding the last day,
rewriting the final scene.
Speed is the trick.
I would rather give away, bit by bit,
everything I own
until, when death comes,
almost nothing is left to take.
I think I could stand
being bedridden for a year,
in the end needing help
I'd like the chance to say good riddance
to the body, its vanity, its shame.
Let me float those last months
like a dinghy in the mist.
Let my mind part like reeds
to let the wooden boat through.
If I am in pain, give me
a generous morphine drip.
If I am alone, let me have
the memory of my parents,
my husband, fragments of lovers,
anyone I want
to comfort me.
I want to hand back the keys.
I want to believe in the dignity
of loss, the last great insight,
if there is one, slipping from me
unspoken like a poem
in a dream that is gone
by morning. It was, of course,
a great poem, maybe my best.
In the end, let there be nothing left behind
but a ring such as milk leaves
after it's been scalded in a pan and poured.
-- "If We Could Choose" by Jacqueline Berger