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My Perfect Death

August 17, 2008

Have you ever wondered how you shall “cross over,” “move on to the next life” or “pass away”?

Note:  Makes you wonder why people have to call dying “crossing over,” “moving on” or “passing away”.  People long ago must have thought, “Death is just so cold and seems so unpleasant.  We must call it something else so it won’t be as scary a prospect as before.  I vote that it should be called crossing over,  moving on or passing away, all of which have a much more hopeful ring to them than being decomposed by bacteria or becoming a feast for worms.  Those who are in favor, say Aye!”

Right.  Like saying you’re a “senior citizen” instead of merely “old” makes you seem younger, or saying you’re petite instead of simply “short” makes you seem taller, or saying you’re big-boned or chubby instead of just “overweight” makes you seem more slender… and so on and so forth.

We do have a knack for wrapping things up in pretty words that will make them seem better or much more acceptable when, in the first place, if we did not put such negative connotations on the word “old”, “short,” “overweight,” etc., we won’t even have to replace them.

Going back to the main topic of this post:  have you ever thought about how you shall die?

I have thought about how I shall die.  It was not something I thought up by myself, by the way.  One of my college instructors decided to make it one of her course requirements.  We had to think about our death and pass a scrapbook documenting our death in every gory detail.  The more spectacular you designed your death to be and the more “accurately” you recorded it, the higher the grade you got for the class assignment.

I don’t recall the point of the exercise – or if the exercise even had a point.  I’m sure it must have made sense at that time, though, for I set about my task with all the enthusiasm of a 16-year-old girl who had been given a great way of passing her time:  engineering her “perfect death.”

I immediately started recalling all the novels I have read and the movies I have seen, especially those with death scenes in them.  One of my fave movies then was “Oro Plata Mata”  but even I didn’t want to die as violently as the characters in that film did.  No, I wanted to die with some drama (naturally), but I didn’t want my family to have to  go round the countryside looking for my body parts (Oh, there is her hand.  I know that’s her right hand.  See the palm?  It’s got the exact same lines that I can see from this picture where she holds a glass of wine aloft.  That’s definitely her right hand.)

So I started thinking about more conventional ways of dying.  The following were the candidates.

1. Old Age – This was one of obvious choices.  It would have the drama.  By then, I imagined myself surrounded by adult children who would be so grateful to me for giving birth to them and grandchildren who would be so grateful to me for taking their side when they quarreled with their parents.  They’d all be so devastated by my “passing away” they’d cry rivers (lots and lots of rivers) of tears, pound their heads against a concrete wall, tear their hair from their scalp, and be inconsolable for months on end, maybe even years. (Sigh, great to be so loved, huh?).

What a spectacular scrapbook that would have made.  I could include little sacks (maybe jugs) containing supposed tears of my family, hair samples, blood samples (from pounding their head against a concrete wall), and pictures documenting the whole thing.  I’d have so much fun, too, asking my friends to pose for these pictures.

2.  Car Accident – Another obvious candidate for my demise.  I’d set it so I would be maybe just out for lunch or for a walk then get hit by a drunk driver.  My husband would receive a call from the police and he would be so shocked he would not be able to say anything in response.  He would walk like an automaton to the morgue (which would be around 5 kilometers from his office) to identify my body.  When he saw me, he would stare, dry-eyed, and confirm that it was me on the table.  He’d just stare at me for hours, unmoving from his place beside me, and think about the harsh words we had exchanged that morning.  Yeah, we just had a fight.  Adds more drama to everything, you know.

Then, he would go through all the stages of dying (per the Kubler-Ross model).  These five stages are supposed to apply to people who have found out they are dying, but it also applies to those who have experienced some tragic loss – i.e. my imaginary  husband.  So he would undergo these stages:

  • denial (this can’t be happening; I’ll go home and she’ll be there)
  • anger  (Why, why her?  She was so sweet and so good.  She’s a saint! – he he, two words:  self aggrandizement)
  • bargaining (I’ll be in charge of all domestic chores.  I’ll cook, I’ll clean, I’ll treat her like a princess; I’ll do anything, just please let her be all right  – he he, two words:  I wish)
  • depression (she’s no longer alive; why bother?)
  • acceptance (I must move on; it’s what she would have wanted.  I’ll start dating tomorrow – you’d better not, if you know what’s good for you, he he)

And of course, I’d document everything.  I’d include a photograph of the car that would hit me, photographs of my lifeless body in the  morgue, pictures of my imaginary husband receiving the phone call, walking to the morgue, identifying me, and undergoing each of the five stages, etc.  It would be fabulous.

3.  Cancer – This is a another good scenario.  In this case, I would be undergoing the five stages.  It would be drawn out.  I would have enough time to talk with my loved ones.  I’d listen to my own eulogy, and that would be great.  This way, I’d get to hear good things about me while I was still around to be properly appreciative.  I’d include word-for-word texts of what my friends and family would say.  I’d include lots of pictures in my death scrapbook, too.

So these three were my perfect-death scenarios for the class project.  I thought about including suicide, but I didn’t want to hurt myself (even in my scrapbook) and I thought it pretty pointless, so that one crashed immediately.  I then considered each one.

First, the old age scenario.  It had the drama and none of the mess. But I thought about it again, and frankly, the idea was rather boring.  In my 16-year-old mind, “it happened all the time” ergo “it’s not unique” ergo “I don’t want to die that way.”  End of discussion and end of “death by old age” idea.

How about the car accident and the cancer scenarios?  I didn’t think I’d be brave enough to face the torture of expecting death at any moment.  The car accident would be sudden and less painful for me.  However, the former would give my family time to prepare for my death; the latter would be so sudden and so much more painful – or would it?  The car accident scenario, however, would mean there would be blood and mess.

I was undecided between my last two scenarios.  In the end, I chose like the 16-year-old girl I was – I went for the greater drama of a sudden car accident.  I killed myself by getting hit by a car.

So here was my final death scenario for the class assignment:

I’d be 25 at that time (right about now, then); I included a digitally “aged” image of myself.   I would be married, no kid.  That morning of the fatal accident, I would fight with my imaginary husband (I included a made-up picture of myself and my imaginary hubby together).  During the lunch hour, I’d take a walk so I could think (you know how it goes in the movies).  When I cross the street to get back to the office, I’d get hit by a drunk driver (that someone’s drunk at that time of day somehow made everything seem worse).  And everything would play out as I discussed above.

At the day of the funeral, it would be cold and raining hard.  Asin’s single, “Lupa” (you know the song, Nagmula sa lupa, magbabalik na kusa, ang buhay mong sa lupa nagmula – look it up at Google) would be playing while everyone walks to the church then to the cemetery.  I’d have lilies – lots of them.  All the people in attendance would also be wearing either white or black.  They’d also have black ribbons (you know those ribbons symbolizing the fight against, breast cancer – just make them black) pinned on their lapels or black bands tied on their sleeves.  They’d be crying, of course, but they would be crying silent tears and such tears would be washed away by the rain.

Sigh… so much for my perfect death and perfect funeral.  Now that I look back on it, I see that it is just like a rerun of a good ‘ole death and funeral scene in a typical third-rate movie (but my documentation must have been excellent for I got a grade of 1.25 for that, he he).

I learned one important lesson from that class assignment, though.  Death is natural and it will happen to everyone.  By thinking about how I will die, I learned to accept death (i.e. the idea of my death and mortality).  More importantly, I was able to contemplate my death without the superstitious fear that often accompanies such an activity.

Yes, indeed.  Thinking about death will not kill you.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2010 5:13 am

    Hi Jinky,
    I enjoyed your post. Thinking about death may actually affect life positively- we might “awake” from wasting away, and start to look for more meaningful things to do.

    I have been thinking about death from a slightly different angle. What is “better”, long battle with death, or a sudden, momentary death? The answer may not be so obvious:

    • February 2, 2011 3:52 am

      Thanks Mike! I read your post, and I truly enjoyed it. Your take on death is really insightful. I never thought of it that way. It was always more of a cut-and-dried choice between a long, drawn-out death and a sudden death for me. I never even considered a compromise, but you have shown me that a less painful option exists (if we could choose the manner of our own deaths, that is) ^^

  2. November 19, 2008 7:31 am


    Wow!!! You’re a programmer!!! I want to take courses on that. I am especially interested in web application development; oh if only time would stretch to accommodate me… 😦

    And you’re wrong about coding and imagination; after all, you do have to imagine how the program would work before you put cursor to screen (for lack of a better equivalent to “put pen to paper”)

    I remember that I have always wanted to become a lawyer. I actually obtained a B.A. political science degree; I took it up with the full intention of going on to law school afterwards. However, on my first year, I met a great professor. Then and there I decided I wanted to be a teacher instead. Didn’t even take the Law Aptitude Exam after I graduated; I immediately headed on to the Population Institute to work towards a postgrad qualification.

    As for you, *drama queen* I think you enjoy your work a lot. Very lucky you!!!! 🙂

  3. febe permalink
    November 17, 2008 1:56 pm

    Haha. Right on dear, ‘imagination’ is the keyword. I was merely imagining things. hehe 🙂 I have long lost my aspiration to become Vogue’s EIC to take a career path that might actually be the opposite. Currently, there’s nothing creative in my line of work unless you consider typing codes, commands and formulating computing sequence in my head creative. (but dont get me wrong i love my job!) 🙂 I’ve also realized that i wouldn’t make a good princess coz i can never force myself to conform to the ways and norms of royalty (im contented being a drama queen, thank you very much!). haha. 😀

    So, 23?! That’s starting early, hehe 🙂 Im curious about how near you came though. 😀

    Yeah, i think its a usual human-vampire plot. Hmmm, that one sounds like Raven Hart. I’ll try and find it when i find myself in a bookstore. Thanks for the tip. 🙂

  4. November 13, 2008 7:26 pm

    Hi febe!

    Ha ha ha. Hello, dear Vogue editor-in-chief and princess. your imagination is really fertile, he he he. Are you in a creative line of work, by any chance? 😆

    We had to do something like that in high school. I imagined myself married, with kids and a law firm partner at the age of 23 (go figure, he he he).

    You know what, I think somebody wrote a novel about the “vampire” part of your fiction. The non-vampire boy fell in love with a vampire girl and let the vampire bite him so they can be together, but the creator of the vampire girl (the one who bit her in the first place) killed the vampires that his ‘creations’ created. It’s a convoluted story, but my impression of it is that it is written Neil-Gaiman like (but he’s not the author this time). Saw it at National. 🙂

  5. febe permalink
    November 13, 2008 2:41 pm

    In highschool, i had to write an autobiography. It was alright to mix reality and fiction; And, I wrote that at age 28 i was the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue and a globetrotter. On my nth trip to Rome, i met an italian prince and we fell in love. There were objections because i wasnt royalty so we eloped. The night of our honeymoon, he confessed that he’s a vampire. With my consent, he bit me and “turned” me and so, i became immortal.

    I know. 😉 Now that im older and i think of myself as matured – That was just insane! hahaha!

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