Another Totentanz

digital illustrationTo Rest in Peace

Alas! for shadows carve my collarbones

and misery is lapping at my heels;

Death’s machinations turn, wheels within wheels,

and grind me for its grist between cold stones–

And yet, as dust-dry as I turn, breath blooms

persistently, a torture to my soul

when I had rather be devoured whole

and go on into Peace’s empty rooms–

Still, here I stay, lie atomized, forlorn,

forgotten on the fringes of what life

and loves I knew once, when my days were rife

with possibility as a new morn–

Let me die now, not live without a chance

of altering this endless Totentanz.

Lest you think me suffering myself, or pessimistic, I assure you I am alive and well. It’s just that I have seen many others struggle with prolonged and pitiful end-of-life dramas and was reminded this June when I saw the beautiful antique gravestones in Boston of how different things are now, when we have such nearly unbelievable powers to keep ourselves alive for tremendously long lives but have lost touch with when it’s acceptable or even desirable not to do so. If our skills for ensuring or encouraging genuine quality of life are far outstripped by our skills for lengthening it, what does that say about us? Generations removed from our forebears, whether in Boston or elsewhere, who knew much more primitive medicine, greater physical dangers, irreparable injuries and the concomitant shorter lifespans we have apparently long since forgotten, do we know how to accept death as a natural end to life and treat dying as a passage to be eased to the fullest extent instead of forbidden?

4 thoughts on “Another Totentanz

    • There’s been an excellent series of articles in both the NY and LA Times recently on this (and related) medical-ethics topics; makes me hope that the real conversation is at least beginning finally. I’m glad you appreciated the piece, Michelle. 🙂

    • Sounds lovely. I’m hoping for flowers at the end, too: I might not have posted my poem ‘Lying in Iris’ yet (I’ll have a look around), but it’s the statement of my hope that when I’m dead I can be cremated and given as an ash gift to a bed of iris, one of my many favorite flowers. Meanwhile, I’d like to enjoy as many iris as I can, so spending my last days or hours in the midst of masses of flowers sounds lovely to me, too!
      xoxoxo, and may we both live long and healthy, happy lives among the flowers before we lie down in them! 🙂
      Kathryn

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