Mr. Brown, my favorite American History teacher in high school, said he knew how he wanted to die: "Hung for rape at 95."
Mr. Brown being a possible exception, choice of time or place or method is rarely one of life's options. This woman reluctantly keeps an appointment in the north tower, a child is eager to meet her Congresswoman, a young man in love buys tickets for a midnight movie.
My first real experience with death was of my father, Phil Lewis. I think he did it best, and worst. He died suddenly, without warning in the Emergency Room of St. Louis City Hospital. He died when I was 23 of problems which I have lived through a number of times. Going quickly seems like a good thing, not having time to say goodbye an added loss. To this moment his passing is the single most traumatic event of my life.
My step-father, Bill Maddox, through a life of poverty and hard-knocks had built himself into a good, Christian man. My mother informed me that when I'd once introduced him as my father he was so humbled he went home and cried. Last week I told our son Benjamin William that he would know why he was named William if he'd known Bill. Bill died of Prostate Cancer. It was slow and there was time, it was not easier.
As this is written our daughter Susan and son-in-law Steve are in Arizona visiting her in-laws on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary. She is also facing her own personal first experience of death. Her father-in-law, Ray Skelton, is in hospice care. Only met Ray once and he lived up to his reputation as a gentleman, reminding me somewhat of Bill. Like most humans he does not deserve the end to which he is coming.
As Susan has quoted my blogs on Facebook, it seems fair to quote her Facebook in my blog. This is what she posted July 19 concerning her father-in-law:
"I have been mulling over life the past few days as I visit with my in-laws. For those of you that do not know, my father-in-law is losing his battle with cancer and is in the end days of a long, hard, well-fought battle. He is a very good man -- one of the best. I don't think that I could have asked for a better bonus dad if I had gotten to choose my husband's father, alongside choosing my husband. But I think that the best way to sum up his life was a paraphrase of a gentleman's comment made while celebrating my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary this week. 'Ray is showing us how to die with faith, grace and dignity.' I believe that he has shown all the people he has touched how to live their lives that way, so it is befitting that he shows us how to die that way. He is definitely greatly loved and will be dearly missed. I only wish my children could grow up knowing him."
Would have preferred my grandchildren had known Ray Skelton, Bill Maddox, Phil Lewis, and even Mr. Brown. Such meetings, too, are not options life offers.
As President Kennedy famously said, "Life's not fair." Neither is death.