A Field Guide to DEATH

Observations about

Death and Dying

A Field Guide to Death 

Observations about Death and Dying

by Mark Mathew Braunstein

 

  1. Introduction 

  2. Parables and Fables 

  3. The Art of Dying 

  4. Real-Life Dialogs with Death 

  5. Epigrams and Telegrams 

 

 

1- Introduction (even though Death needs no introduction) 

   

You need not have one foot in the grave in order to think about your grave. Nor need you be dying in order to think about the inevitable event of your dying. While society may diagnose me as being morbid to think so deeply about Death as to also write about it, you must be equally morbid to dare to read about it. So which do we need more to distract us from advancing beyond this paragraph? A shrink, a priest, a rabbi, a social worker, a sex worker, or an editor?

   

I am writing my thoughts about Death for the same reason that I write anything. To rid my mind of those thoughts. But what’s your excuse for reading? I so often am thinking and sometimes am writing about this nebulous concept of Death because Death lurks everywhere (Shelley: “Death is here and death is there / Death is busy everywhere.”) and because everything presently living is simultaneously dying. Yet, today in our society, no one dies anymore. Instead, they pass away. No one is a corpse anymore. Instead they are bodies. No brothers die before their sisters anymore. Instead, sisters are predeceased by their brothers. No one awaits their burials in morgues anymore. Instead, they lie in state. No one gets laid out in coffins anymore. Instead, they are set to rest into caskets in funeral homes. No one gets buried in graveyards anymore. Instead they are interred in cemeteries. No one is long dead anymore. Instead they are the late. No one living reads philosophical treatises about Death anymore. Instead they watch 3-minute YouTube videos about how to live forever. 

   

With no one but you reading, I am free to pound on my keyboard these forethoughts for markings someday to be chiseled into marble, while I ponder some greater tome, too lengthy for my tombstone. But do not think I yearn to crawl into my grave just yet. To be able to contemplate Death is reason enough for me to cling to my little life. Because, once dead, I no longer will be able to ruminate upon Birth and Death and every one of life’s stages in between. Yet perhaps contemplating the concept of Death while still living is as absurd as thinking about the meaning of the word unthinkable. Perhaps I should wait until I have experienced Death not merely secondhand but first. Until rigor mortis creeps into a dead body, I might prop it up to sit, but I can’t make it talk. I can’t make it reveal the answer to the riddle, What is Death? So, no, I can’t wait. I must inscribe my thoughts right now, prematurely, like an infant who is born too soon, like a child who dies too soon.

   

Even though Death will erase my thoughts, here’s what I think. I think that Life whispers slowly in broken phrases and takes a lifetime to spill its secrets to an impatient audience assembled in an overcrowded stadium, but the din of the crowd drowns out those whispers. In contrast, Death shouts its secrets loudly and rashly as its clock winds down and ticks its last tock, but in an empty room, so no one hears. 

   

Are you still there? If so, please allow Life to whisper into your ear these musings about Death.

 

 

2 - PARABLES and FABLES (about paradoxes and foibles)

 

   On a rock upon a shore someone had inscribed: LOVE WILL MAKE YOU FORGET DEATH. This spot was a favorite meeting place for lovers, because they believed it, and so there awaited the sunrise while they forgot Death.

   Then beneath that single sentence, someone scribbled another: DEATH WILL MAKE YOU FORGET LOVE. After that, few people visited that rock anymore. Those solitaries who did venture forth were the unrequited and the betrayed, were the widowed and the divorced, because they believed in nothing, and so there awaited the sunset while they hoped to forget love.

   Then one day, both inscriptions disappeared. Either the sea had washed the graffiti off the rock, or the rock had washed away into the sea. 

   No point in drowning oneself in the sea if one’s body will be washed ashore.

 

   

Once we go to celebrate two wed. Twice we go to view each dead.

   The wedding procession: the limo and cars depart from the church to reassemble at the banquet to celebrate the beloved newlyweds. 

   The funeral procession: the hearse and cars depart from the funeral home to reassemble at the cemetery to bury the beloved deceased.

   The two processions converge at an intersection where a traffic light has gone on the blink. Who should yield to whom? Life to venerate the dead? Or Death to celebrate the living? 

   The two lead drivers emerge from their limo and their hearse in order to negotiate.

   “Age before beauty,” suggests the driver dressed in black, guided by solemnity. “Leave the dead to bury the dead,” counters the driver dressed in white, primed for celebration. 

   Both fall silent and neither budges.

   By ones and by twos, drivers and passengers, some dressed in white, some dressed in black, all emerge from their cars and intermingle at the crossroads. Members of one procession recognize close friends and distant relatives among the other procession. Some shake hands, others share hugs. Some shout with joy, others cry in lamentation.

   The children of the deceased, old friends of the bride’s parents, explain to the groom’s parents their connection to the deceased. Both pairs of parents gaze reverently upon the corpse.

   “Where is he going?” wonders the groom. The corpse, if he could answer, would whisper, “To my grave.”

   A cop arrives to disperse the traffic jam. Everyone except for the groom returns to their cars. Instead of into the limo carrying the bride, the groom enters the hearse transporting the corpse.

   “Where are you going?” shouts the bride in dismay, as her limo departs. The groom shouts back, “I’m taking the short cut.”

 

   

   An old proverb warns that hate is akin to taking poison and hoping it will kill your enemy. Actually it is just as foolish to hope to kill your enemy. Why put him out of his misery? Better to let him live long enough to suffer the indignities of old age. Let me him become crippled by arthritis and stroke. Let him suffer the pain of fractures and cancer. Let him witness the deaths of all his friends and family ahead of him. Let him die alone with no one to comfort him dying or to mourn his death. Let him experience aphonia and aphasia. Let him drool and become bedridden and lay in a pool of his pee and poop. Let him die out of boredom of the same old shit.

   Because, if we live that long, the infirmity of old age awaits us all. Dentures will replace our teeth, thinning grey hair will clog our combs, age spots and wrinkles will reflect in our mirrors, our gait will falter, our bones will fracture, our hearing dim, our eyesight blur, our memory fade. Meanwhile, we march forth. At the head of the parade, life marches on. And, taking up the rear, death marches on.

 

   The jogger runs. What is he running from? From boredom and its accompanying triviality? From decadence and its consequential obesity? From aging and its incipient disability? From Life and its inevitable Death?

   The athlete had taken good care of his body, had run five miles daily, had never smoked cigs or drank booze, and had avoided white sugar and white flour and white meat. He has lived to a ripe old age, has outlived all his friends, has seen them all crawl crippled into their graves. Now his frequent pastime is visiting all his old friends in their graves. Reading the dates on other tombstones in the vast, almost endless graveyard, he discovers that, of the elderly husbands and wives buried side-by-side, most soon followed the other to their graves. The first may have died from a weak heart, the second surely died from a broken heart. 

   An old gravedigger with a weak heart has died, so a young gravedigger is digging a grave for the old gravedigger. While any fiercely independent gravedigger would dig his own grave, his backbreaking labors over the graves he previously had dug for others are what contributed to sending him to his own grave. “What are you doing?” asks the athlete, while visiting the grave of an old friend. “Digging my own grave,” the younger but wiser gravedigger answers.

 

   When we were children, our parents told us, “When you have children …,” and, “When your own children grow up…,” and, “Wait until you have children.” We were told it by our parents who were told it by their parents. But where are the parents who do not tell that to their children, who do not indoctrinate their children to have children? Speak up, you parents, speak up! 

   Your urge to bear children was driven by your desire to escape Death. You parents consulted each other about our births, but you never consulted your children, never asked your children if they were weary of their world of the unborn. Instead you thrust life upon them, like a bribe slipped into their empty pockets to buy them off, like a nipple stuffed into their crying mouths to shut them up. Your unborn were happy not knowing, not caring, not being. Your unborn never asked for the here and now, but are here now and so they stay. 

   While you count your children, your children count their days. While you plan your families, your children plot their graves. 

 

   Allow me to introduce myself. I am the last person that you want to meet. In fact, I am the last person that you do meet. Because your name is Life and mine is Death. I have anticipated meeting you since the day you were born, and have waited patiently for that day when you will die. Perhaps unbeknownst to you, I have always been by your side, even your bedside while you slept. I have grown with you and within you. All this time, I have been playing with you, like a cat with its half-dead prey. With the males, I have played the many roles of your lovers. With the females, I have participated in several roles as your children. Everything you have accomplished in life, you owe to me. Had you not been destined for your single tombstone, you would never have reached your many milestones. 

   So no greater crime than squandering time. And it is a foolish crime because you will be caught red-handed and will plead guilty as charged. The sentence is life without parole, concluded by a Death sentence. If, on the other hand, you lived forever, you would squander every minute and Life would hold less meaning for you. Adding meaning to Life, Death is a blessing. No greater incentive for accomplishment than the last minute. And no greater accomplishment than that last minute when you draw your last breath.

   If you knew that you would die tomorrow, would you continue pretending that you will live forever? Or would you live like there is no tomorrow? 

   Waiting for something worth waiting for, you wait all day long for something that never arrives. Searching for something worth searching for, you search all night long for something that never is found. Every step forward nevertheless is in the right direction because it is one step away from where you began. Regardless what direction, with every step you march toward Death. Unable to face Life, some turn to Death. Unable to face Death, the rest simply cling to Life. Regardless by what route, you soon enough will arrive at Death’s door that all along had been left open just for you. Please close the door behind you

 

 

We are all patients under hospice care. What line can be drawn between the terminally ill who will die in a month or a year and the rest of us who will die in 10 years or 50? We all fall ill. And, if we grow old enough, we all become crippled. The males, crippled old men. The females, crippled old women. Born with expiration dates stamped on our rumps, young or old, male or female, we all will die. 

   Our last breaths may not come with our next breaths, but it will come. All rooms are waiting rooms. Death awaits us regardless what we sit in, whether an armchair, or a wheelchair, or an electric chair. An inmate on death row, strapped down to the gurney in his execution gas chamber, still fights for his life even with his last breath.  

 

 

Standing on a busy city streetcorner, we see two endless parades of faces streaming by, each in opposite directions. One parade comprises those people we have known in the past, the other those presently unknown to us but who we may yet know in our future. One half reawakens our memories, the other half stirs our hopes. On rare occasions, some people step out of that stream and stand next to us, asking for directions. But we do not know where we are, and they do not know where they are going. So they quickly rejoin the parade and disappear into the crowd, which never disappears. Like a mighty river whose origin can be traced to a trickling mountain brook, the parade of faces from our pasts originates in a place that eludes our memory, the deep cavern of our birthplaces. The parade of faces marching into our future empties into a vast bottomless pit of our gravesites.  

 

   Though I have desired many things, I all along expected nothing, and so expected all my desires to come to nothing. Hence the little that I was granted was more than I deserved. Neither a Buddhist who desired nothing nor a Christian who yearned for salvation, I hope to die as a wise man who dies happily ever after. 

   Thus I went in search of Life. Along the way, I met Death. “What are you doing?” Death asked me. “Looking for Life,” I answered. “He went that a way,” Death said, pointing to me, at which point he fled. 

   Then I went in search of Death. Along the way, I met Life. “What are you doing?” Life asked me. “Looking for Death,” I answered. “He went that a way,” Life said, pointing to me, at which point I died.

 

 

 

3 - The ART of DYING (in Literature as in Life, or is it the other way around?)

 

   Gauguin’s 1897 mural painting in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, titled “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” 

   Describing the painting as a parable about birth, life, and death, he wrote: “Lastly, an old woman approaching death appears resigned to her thoughts. She completes the story.” Suffering from syphilis and failing eyesight, he struggled to complete this 12-feet-long painting, his largest ever, after which he planned on poisoning himself with arsenic, probably in hopes of completing his own story. But his attempt at suicide was either feigned or failed. He was destined to wait five more years for the answers to his three questions.

 

   Rembrandt’s circa 1666 self-portrait painting in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne. 

   He paints himself laughing while painting another portrait sitting on his easel. Laughing at what? At himself? At the world? At Life? At Death? He has lost his fortune, his fame, his art collection, his home, Saskia his wife, Hendrickje his lover, all but one of his children, and yet he laughs. In 1664, one-sixth of Amsterdam’s population perished in a plague, and still he laughs. While Death is not a joke, neither is Death a tragedy. Life is a joke, and Death its laughter.  

 

   Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film titled Ikiru (To Live). 

   The protagonist, who has learned that he is dying of cancer, has vowed to do something with his life, which until then had been absent of any meaningful accomplishment. Bearing his cancer like Christ carrying the Cross, he was resurrected to the tune of Happy Birthday. So Death spurred him on in to live. Who of us is truly alive? Those of us who, if told we will die tomorrow, would continue to live today exactly as we had lived yesterday.

 

   Zen master Yamamoto, grown infirm and nearly blind at age 96, decided it was time to die.

   Fasting is just a dress rehearsal for dying, so he stopped eating. But the other monks of his monastery implored him to wait for the freezing winds of winter to be warmed by the spring sun, else he cause discomfort to all his disciples at his outdoor funeral who would be forced to shiver in the cold. Good idea, he thought, so he resumed eating until spring. Then he fasted and, when his clothes no longer fit him, he died, because by then he was fit for nothing. 

 

   Lorado Taft’s 1922 sculpture on the southern edge of the University of Chicago campus, titled “The Fountain of Time.” More accurately titled “The March of Time,” it is a larger-than-life-size assembly of a procession of a hundred human figures marching from birth to death. The youngest lead the parade while the eldest trail behind. Set apart from the march of the doomed stands a 26-foot tall statue of a solitary cloaked figure named Time. Time stands still while watching the parade go by. The sculpture is said to illustrate a line from Austin Dobson’s poem written in an archaic dialect. “Time goes, you say? Alas, time stays, we go!” My translation: “Time marches on? No, Time stands still. Humanity marches on.”

   At class reunions, we view the March of Time etched upon the faces of our former classmates. We might marvel how some retain the same youthful look by which we remember them, while most have grown to look just as old as our own parents did when we were youthful students. At our 50th high school reunions, almost all of us have the same startling news to share. During our most recent annual physical exams, our doctors all informed us that we have less than 20 years left to live. 

 

   Percy Shelley’s 1820 poem, “Death (Death is Here and death is there).”

   The best time to write about death is between midnight and dawn, so that the drowsy writer then can view the sunrise as reassurance that he is still alive. The best time to read about Death is between dusk and midnight, so that the reader can sleep on it and dream about Death. If sleep, as many have said, is the sister of Death, then dreams are Death’s cousins. 

   And because what we view or read just before falling asleep often appears echoed in our dreams, in order to dream about Death it is best to read about Death. Hence, every night before going to sleep, try rereading Shelley’s poem, so that you might dream either about Death or about that poem, in order to come to grasp the meaning, if not of Death, then at least of Shelley’s poem about Death. 

 

“The purpose of philosophy is to teach us how to die,” wrote Plato, in Phaedo, of what Socrates said, though in translation Socrates said it less emphatically as, “Those who practice philosophy practice dying.” An ancient book equally about how to live and how to die is Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. In Marcus Aurelius’ honor, I dedicate my poem titled:

Insincere Suicide Note #2 to My Future Self

 

  • Third-grade girls in pony tails

  • nicknamed me Marcus Aurelius

  • Yet not till thirty-three and a third

  • did I open his little book

  • which will outlast my little life

  • When the cuckoo tick-tocks

  • my final five o’clock

  • waste not good food

  • row me to the Glades

  • to feed me to the Gators

  • As you watch me disappear

  • through their teeth of time

  • offer these pages as paper napkins

  • for their crocodile smiles

  • Between passage from rebirth to redeath

  • these passages peruse

  • so you on your deathbed 

  • might lastly grasp

  • “What, again?”

 

Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, followed by Schubert’s Unbegun Symphony.

 

 

 

 

4 - REAL-LIFE DIALOGS with DEATH (cryptic true tales of the crypt)

 

   Beethoven’s lullaby-like third movement of his Ninth Symphony was playing on my car stereo. Past midnight, as I raced down an interstate highway, sleet was falling and forming icy sheets on the asphalt. Hardly surprising, my car suddenly spun off the highway, slid down the sunken median between the east and westbound lanes, plowed into a snowbank, and stalled. Its headlights went dark, the music abruptly stopped, my heart pounded. Except for my quickened heartbeat, silence enveloped my night. Savoring the moment in surviving unhurt and with my car potentially undamaged, I sat still, feeling my heartbeat slacken. The car’s quickly dropping interior temperature numbed me, scantily clothed as I was for a long, leisurely drive. Frozen darkness and icy silence. “So this is Death?” I wondered. 

   Years earlier, I had played with the notion of suicide. Waiting to die, I played on my manual turntable the B-side of Beethoven’s C-sharp Minor Quartet, Opus 131, its final three movements of the seven-movement string quartet. The music had reached it end, yet my life had not reached its end. Instead I listened to my constant heartbeat and to the repeated clicking of the stylus within the LP record’s inner groove.

   Occasionally, I still play on my trusty manual turntable some nostalgic selections from my historic collection of vinyl LP records. When the music ends, until I lift the tonearm from the inner groove of the record, the stylus clicks repeatedly, reminding me of my heartbeat while stalled in my suicide attempt and while stalled on the interstate’s median on both those fateful nights. Music to my ears of the music of the spheres, that endless clicking heralds the beckoning call of the eternity of Death. 

 

 

   As a child, I often tended to birds stunned after they had flown into windows in which they saw mirrored the forest behind them. Until they regained consciousness, I guarded them from predators. Sometimes I placed them into darkened boxes, sometimes I simply watched over them where they had fallen. One bird, a Northern Flicker, the most beautiful of any bird that ever struck my windows, struck me with its beauty, all the more apparent when viewed up close. As I gently cradled it in my hands, it breathed heavily, its heart pounded, and then … stillness and silence. Its dead body rested in my hands while perhaps something ineffable flew away and crashed through some other distant window, as though through a looking glass. 

   As a 10-year-old child, this first visitation by Death became a defining moment in my Life. Now, sometimes when I look into the mirror, I am reminded that I am staring into the face of Death, because since I last looked I had grown older, and so by the hour or by the day nearer to my death. Thus the world behind the mirror reveals as many truths as the world in front. In front, the dream world of the living. Behind, the dream world of the reflected forest into which that Northern Flicker had flown away. 

 

 

   For 18 years, she had battled cancer, which had metastasized to half of her digestive and respiratory organs. As a 55-year-old, she looked 85, and at 85 her time was up. Nearing the end of her struggles, she appeared so ghost-like that only her pain marked her as human. At the conclusion of my visit, I gently spoke to her my parting words, “Death is beautiful. … Dying is ugly. … But Death is beautiful.” In response, she smiled, and as though singing a monosyllabic hymn, she whispered just one word, “Yay!” Four days later, she gave up the ghost.

   

My friend’s son survived an overdose on an opioid drug that left him a quadriplegic paralyzed below the neck, unable to see or to speak, able only to hear and to nod yes or no. If I were the son, I would wish to crawl into a hole and die. But, if I were the father, I might better understand why he does everything he can to keep his son alive. 

 

 

   Late night at the college bar, I, an art major, was deep in conversation with a gorgeous classmate, a dance major. Flavored with beer, sex may have been as much on her mind as on mine. We shared our thoughts about thinking. She claimed that she always was thinking, except when dancing and except when making love. I replied that I, too, always was thinking, except that I never dance, while I do think while making art and do think while making love.

   “What do you think about when making art?” she asked. I answered, “I think about Life.”

   “What do you think about when making love?” she asked. I answered, “I think about Death.”

   And then she walked away. 

 

 

   Feminine beauty might be embodied in waist-length hair, a shapely figure, a graceful stride and stance, befitting attire, and childlike facial features. Yet wait ten years, and all those attributes become history. A woman can fend off signs of aging by enlisting the joint services of a hairdresser, an athletic trainer, a yoga instructor, a custom tailor, a manicurist, and a makeup artist. Big bucks can call in the big guns of Botox injections, tummy tucks, breast implants, face lifts, chemical peels, hair removals, teeth whiteners, laser treatments, nose jobs, plastic surgery, liposuction, exorcism. Buffered by her bodyguards, a woman can turn back the minute hand of the clock so that her mirror reflects some past glory rather than her present decline. But such safeguards last barely minutes. A woman may briefly delay the tyranny of time, but no woman can escape it.

   The youthful and middle-aged Greta Garbo had a face that many in her time idolized for its feminine perfection. But she, too, grew old, and her beauty faded. While she hardly hid her head in shame, she did retreat from the public spotlight, that is, if living in the middle of Manhattan can be described as retreating. Some say she did so to spare her admirers from being disappointed by the ephemerality of beauty. I think she did so to spare us from being shell-shocked by the mortality that dwells within us all. Not to protect herself from us but to protect us from our deaths.

   I knew the elderly Greta Garbo, albeit only casually and superficially. In 1978, I worked in a health food store near the United Nations in the very neighborhood in the affluent Upper East Side of Manhattan where she lived in her retirement. Inconspicuously dressed in hiking boots, dungarees, and a ski coat in winter or an army jacket in spring and fall, she shopped once a week for a few select items, among them always Monterey Jack cheese. In the manner for which Manhattanites are well known and precisely for which celebrities prefer residence in Manhattan, I did not ogle her, did not beg for an autograph, did not treat her deferentially in any way, instead I showed the same respect for her privacy as I did for any other customer’s. For that matter, had Death come knocking on my health food store’s door, I would have accorded the same due respect for the cloaked and hooded archetypal figure of Death whose celebrity status surpasses that of even Greta Garbo.

   Indeed, while living in the middle of Manhattan, I was visited by Herr Death in a dream in which I was afloat in the air, just below the ceiling. I looked down into my bedroom and saw below me … me, asleep on my bed. But someone else occupied the room, standing over me. It was Mr Death, cloaked with his face shielded by his hood. In my dream, I who was wakeful and floating tried to shriek, but my voice was dumbstruck. I awoke abruptly, sweating, feeling frightened.

   Twenty years later, while living in the woodland of an arboretum, I again was visited in my dream by the archetypal figure of Death, his face cloaked by his hood. This second time, however, I stood before him and looked him straight into his gaping hood. “Let’s go! … I’m ready,” I said. “No! … Not yet,” he answered. 

   I awoke slowly, peacefully, feeling blessed.

 

 

   “An old friend.” When applied to describe a friend, “old” first means “elderly,” then “longtime,” and eventually both.

   Every time I learn of the deaths of old friends or acquaintances, for the next several days it is not they but my memories of them that haunt me. Until then, it might have been many years since I had given them a thought, but still my dim memories are stirred. Presently, the older I get, the more often I receive such news. Eventually, so many will have already died that I will receive such news less and less often. Thankfully, I will die before everyone I have ever known has died ahead of me. 

   As long as the living still keep alive their memories of the deceased, that person who lives on in someone’s thoughts has not yet fully died. Full demise occurs when the last person to recall any memories of the deceased in turn, too, has died.

   Some reasons for living. To keep alive both our own and someone else’s thoughts. And to keep in our thoughts someone else. 

 

 

   Their survivors to whom they had entrusted their death directives often disregard the wishes of the newly deceased to be cremated. Instead, their survivors give them decent burials. Recognizing this, funeral homes offer deep discounts on cremation deals when paid in advance because many of those cremations, which are nonrefundable, never get fulfilled.

   Why put off to tomorrow what you can do today? And why place the burden upon someone else to do for you tomorrow what you can do for yourself today? So, four years ago, I purchased such a cremator supersaver for $999, which even includes transporting my corpse to the crematoria. I am looking forward to the ride. 

 

 

   I have read enough books about Death to last a lifetime, enough books to fill an entire bookshelf. Spying those books and reading the titles on their spines, my mother asked me, Why do you have so many books about Death? I answered, Thirty books is not so many about Death compared to the more than 3,000 books that I have read about Life.

 

 

   Same as his son, my father had a schadenfreude-shaded sensibility. He saw justice in everyone’s hardships, including his own, and mocked us all for what he deemed we all deserved. But he tempered his ridicule with a self-deprecating sense of humor. All lifelong, he was an avid reader of print media. While bedbound in the hospice, he lost interest in the news of the day, so stopped reading newspapers and magazines. Instead he fully turned his attention to the more enduring news of the decade, if not of the century. He continued reading books. When he died, he was reading 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.

   If I were too weak to walk and confined to my deathbed as a semiconscious corpse, what then might I die reading? Die while reading the chapter in Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire titled,  “The Dead Man of Grandview Point.”

 

 

   Death is a work in progress along every stage upon life’s way. Nevertheless, perhaps concerned about the fragility of my emotional state, a friend asked if I were still writing about Death. I answered Yes, and I will be writing about Death for the rest of my life. 

 

 

5 - EPIGRAMS and TELEGRAMS (because Life is a joke and Death is its laughter)

 

 

Moriendi natalis est: Death begins at birth. In the beginning, awaits the end. Inside the crib, hides a coffin. Within every youthful body, lurks the skeleton. Believing neither in afterlife nor aftershave, I aspire to grow into a very healthy and very hairy corpse. 

 

Life is lived day by day the way that pinball is played game by game. The winner’s reward is merely another game. The greatest loser is he who never loses, because he is compelled to play until the day he dies.

 

Life is a gnawing problem whittled down to a comprehensible size and solved only by Death.

 

Dying, because breathing has become too painful or too boring.

 

What the hell is hell? Living hell means you have lived so long that you wish you were dead. 

 

He is always in a hurry, yet he always is late. He shall arrive on time only to his funeral. 

 

After the brief grief of painting himself into a corner, the abstract painter turned to landscapes. After putting everything into the proper perspective, he disappeared beyond the vanishing point. 

 

All will die, if not today then tomorrow, which is putting the coffin in front of the hearse.

 

People who die in glass coffins should never throw bones.

 

In the end, Death. But before the end, thoughts about Death. Like little mosquitoes on sleepless nights buzzing in our ears and intruding in our dreams, leaving question marks on psyches itching to be answered. 

 

The only two things certain in Life are Death and axes. – Henry VIII

 

Someone always is dying, yet he always is laughing. He shall laugh until the day he dies, when the biggest laugh he shall save for last.

 

Till Death do we part. Till Death does its part.

 

This is a Death sentence.

 

Sung to the tune of “Happy Birthday”:

Happy Birthday to you/

You’re no longer new/

Every year brings you nearer/

When soon you’ll be thru.

 

Sung to the tune of “Happy Birthday”:

Happy Birthday to me/

Quite soon I’ll be free/

Every year brings me nearer/

When I’m buried at sea.

 

Life is a book written in a dead language no one speaks anymore, so the book remains opened only to its title page, and its potential readers all die no wiser than when they were born.

 

Death is a book in-progress for which all of its potential readers are waitlisted at the library and backordered at the bookstore, and while awaiting its publication everyone dies happily ever after.

 

 

 

© Mark Mathew BRAUNSTEIN (2019), sole content creator, web designer,  and photoshopper.

  • No paper was trashed nor trees felled nor truths stretched to create this website. Its cookies are all vegan, all whole grain, and sugar-free.

  • Color space tagged Adobe RGB for Safari, so on any other browser tagged for sRGB, you will not be viewing my true colors.

  • Don't you dare follow me on Twitter or any other social media, else I have you arrested for stalking.