Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What to Expect When You're Expiring, 2nd ed.


The acclaim for the first edition of What to Expect When You’re Expiring was so great, we decided to release a second edition, this time with some actual content between the title and “The end,” though in a strange way, that kind of sums it up.

There’s a very good chance that the text you’re now reading is unfinished. That’s because we’re trying to write this from personal experience, and there’s a limit to just how far we can go with that. Nevertheless, we’ll plunge in and see what turns up.


In the late 1960’s, psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross figured out that terminally ill patients usually react to news of their impending deaths in five stages:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance
Never mind that these are also the stages of Christmas shopping, they are a useful guide to understanding our feelings about death. Specifically, we don’t like it.

But what can be done about it? As it turns out, not much.


Many people, facing imminent death, turn to religion, even if they’ve led secular lives up to now. Of course, if you want to join a religion, you should choose one with simple entrance requirements, so you can have a shot at salvation even this late in life.

You want a religion that will fast-track your path to absolution. The main point is that you want to be readily accepted into the fold. The customary approach to this is similar to choosing colleges when you’re in high school. You want to be sure to include a couple of safety religions, a couple of reach faiths, and perhaps a few match sects. With each of these, you want to make sure your level of penitence and contrition matches the incoming class averages.

Withdrawing from the world

This is a time you’re entitled to focus on your own needs, and ignore politics and world events. Everyone will forgive you.

  1. Don’t worry about politics.
  2. Throw away plastic bottles.
  3. No longer listen when E.F. Hutton speaks.
  4. Forget about watching all those British period dramas on public television. Just watch whatever crap helps pass the time.

Questions and Answers

Each case is different, I’m sure there are many readers who still have unanswered questions. We’ll try to address some of the more common ones below.

I’m dying of an incurable disease. Is it possible my doctors are wrong about how long I’ve got?
Not really. No.
After I die, will I still be able to communicate with people, like in “Ghost?”
Uh … no.
I have cancer, but I’m too young to die. Does that make a difference?
I’ve led an honorable, altruistic life. Will that save me?
Congratulations. And no.
If I come back as someone else, can I be sure to learn Twitter at an early age?
They say “you can’t take it with you,” but can I sneak a little something along?


People seem to feel uncomfortable using words like “death” and “dying,” especially if it applies to themselves. We hope this little list of euphemisms may help overcome this problem.

  • Bought the farm (or, more delicately, “Purchased agricultural real estate”)
  • Kicked the bucket
  • Pushing up daisies
  • Lost in cyberspace
  • Gone to that big <whatever-you-like>
  • Gone to a better place
  • Emptied his/her “to do” list
  • Took the D train
  • Closed out the accounts
  • Played his/her finale
  • Drained the keg

Further expressions are left as an exercise for the reader.

The end

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