Is there anything I can do this moment, as I examine my fingernails, to make death easier? To feel in the deepest part of me that the most intelligent response to the transition—tonight, long before it happens—is a bemused and drunken, or at least drunk-seeming, devil-may-care lifting of a wine glass to my lips. So that when it happens, I’ll cross the bar (to quote Tennyson) like butter (to quote Mike Meyers). Or, more accurately, like a knife through butter.
It seems that’s my greatest concern, even obsession: not the state we call death but the transition. That the knife will be so fine I’ll barely feel it. It’s enough to feel life, I dont want to feel death. Not the death I havent yet felt that comes like a thief, whether you are expecting him or not, day or night. However much some feel death is part of life, it’s metaphorical, imaginal, even if it does cause pain or ecstasy. This other is the real thing; the intensest, most dramatic, not to say most final death.
To me death’s greatest mystery is not its duration, or rather its infiniteness, but its moment of stealing breath from the body. And the body’s moment of ceasing altogether to be a part of me, a thing worth reckoning with. That flash of light that I imagine so quickly follows the extinguishing of terrestrial and human light, which instantly transports one to another realm of existence. And instead of nine months in a womb, one’s years, however many, have incubated the soul, preparing it for the stupendous though hopefully undramatic and easeful movement of crossing over. As I say, like a knife through butter.
And which is, after all, just another birth.