Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on February 7, 2024 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with no comments yet

“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”


“I’m not scared of dying,

And I don’t really care,

 If it’s peace you find in dying,

Well, then let the time be near.”

And When I Die – Blood, Sweat and Tears


For many of us, the runway is getting shorter. We have lived long, productive lives. We’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve enjoyed pleasure and endured pain. We’ve won some and lost some. We’ve had periods of elation and times of profound sadness. We’ve taken “the good with the bad”. And now, with every passing obituary, we are staring at our own mortality.

On my recent Camino walk in Spain, I spent a few hours on the trail with a young woman from Australia. She had just quit her job and wondered what her future would hold. I suggested that she still had plenty of runway left and that mine was much shorter. She turned to me and said, “Len. Just take a smaller plane.”

Climb aboard as I explore death in the late innings.

Death has never been an easy discussion to have. As a good friend of mine said, “I’m not a big fan of death.”

Before lifting off, let me make it clear. When I address this topic, I’m not talking about tragic, unexpected death. It would be insensitive of me to treat this serious subject in a cavalier manner.

Also, I claim no expertise on the subject. And don’t want to become one.

Recently, I was stopped at the Farmer’s Market where I was approached by two friends who asked me if I might be interested in taking part in a “death café”. I was certain that I heard the words “debt café”.  My initial reaction was that I would probably rather spend 10 hours at Outpatients than sit around having coffee and discussing debt. Then again, I’m sure there are others who would rather hang out at Emerg rather than talk about death.

As a society, we’re not great at discussing anything remotely affiliated with death. I admit to thinking about it a lot more than I did when I was in my 50s. For the longest time, my ideas about death were formulated from a very young age growing up in a large Catholic family. There were the twin towers of the Bible and the Baltimore Catechism. Heaven and hell.

So, what is a death café? I looked it up and here’s one definition: “A death café is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session.”

Fifteen of us met a week ago. I only knew a handful of people in the room. We introduced ourselves and were asked why we had decided to come. The backgrounds of those in attendance were quite diverse. Different careers, different cultures and different religious beliefs. I said that I was there because of curiosity. I wanted to hear what other people had to say on the topic. The introductions took about an hour. We used a talking stick, perhaps one of the greatest inventions of mankind! Prior to breaking for tea and cake, I was asked to play a few tunes that might be appropriate for the occasion. Not surprisingly, there are quite a few songs about death from which to choose, but I settled on Eric Clapton’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and John Prine’s slightly irreverent “Please Don’t Bury Me”. One of my more interesting gigs!

Rather than delve too deeply into the discussion, here is a brief summary of some of the talking points:

. The miracle of dying

. Death on your shoulder.

. Fearful of the unknown at death

. Will I have a good death?

. Fear of dying in pain

. While we may not fear death now on a philosophical level, how will we actually feel when the time comes?

. Death doulas

. Being prepared – having the proper documents in place

. Instead of using the acronym DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), some people use AND (Allow Natural Death)

. Reincarnation

Much of the discussion was about the lead up to death. At a subsequent meeting, we hope to discuss what our thoughts might be “after the last dance”.

As we were getting to go our separate ways, one of the younger participants offered the chorus of this lovely song, a Capella. It was lovely.

“Trees grow slow and trees grow strong.

And trees sway with the wind their whole lives long,

And trees hold the ground as they reach for the sky,

And fallen trees still feed the seeds they cast before they die.”

Trees Grow Slow – Laurence Cole

Thanks, N.

Here’s a website that might be helpful for anyone who might be thinking about doing some advanced planning:

I was quite interested to learn that there were “death doulas”. According to the literature, “A death doula is a person who assists in the dying process, much like a midwife or doula does with the birthing process. It is often a community-based role, aiming to help families cope with death through recognizing it as a natural and important part of life”. Many people are not equipped to deal with the death of a loved one. A doula may be one answer in finding someone to help you.

When I returned home, I did a brief Facebook post to alert my loyal readers that I would be writing about this subject today. A friend sent me a private message indicating that three different friends had recently transitioned using MAID. I suspect that our group will hear lots more on this topic, especially as we have a physician in our group.

I’ll keep you posted.

“When the light goes dark,

With the forces of creation,

Across a stormy sky,

We look to reincarnation,

To explain our lives.”

We Rise Again – Leon Dubinsky

Have a great weekend.

Live it up!




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