A Different New York Times Obituary

When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t log in to the New York Times app. Regular readers know that as part of my routine, one of the things I enjoy is sitting down during the day to read the paper. Turns out that my subscription to the digital newspaper has expired, and so had someone else.

I say ‘my subscription’, but it actually belonged to my mother’s ex-husband. One of my favorite things about him was that he gave me this password and then never changed it. We hadn’t heard much about him for a while. My inability to log in made me suspect something wasn’t right, having successfully rode that subscription without a problem for close to a decade.

After some investigation, I found out that he died. His family must have decided not to renew the subscription. Probably a wise decision because I doubt the terms of membership extend to the afterlife.

Death is a topic that I’m very familiar with, having faced it every day, albeit second-hand, for a decade in the hospice care industry, but this was a new way to be notified. The last time a husband of my mom’s died, Air China called me early one morning and said, “He dead!”

My fear of death was tempered a bit in business school. A classmate who claimed to be psychic read my palm and predicted that I would live to the age of eighty and then suffer a violent death.

Perhaps I took that prophecy a little too seriously, granting myself a license to try some crazy things along the way, incidents that will appear in my upcoming book, Spiritually Promiscuous.

Later in life, I was to discover through my own examination of mortality that Mukul’s cheerful prediction of when I would die probably wasn’t too wide of the mark, statistically speaking. When I researched trends I found that a 38-year-old could expect to live to the ripe old age of 82.2.


Varanasi Funeral Pyres As Viewed From The Ganges
Varanasi Funeral Pyres As Viewed From The Ganges

I was on intimate terms with death. My job required that I gain an understanding of it. I could rattle off stats the way a third grader rhymes off multiplication tables.

At the time in the US, there were 2.2 million deaths annually, of which 1.8 million are hospice eligible – meaning that once you eliminate murders, wars, deaths in pregnancy, accidents and other unpredictable causes, it’s possible, in the aggregate, to see death coming. A survey with fifteen questions can tell, with 85% accuracy, if someone will die in the next two years. Hospice doctors can accurately identify a prognosis of six months or less 92% of the time.

Each day, 6,000 people die. Tuesday mornings between 6:00 and 8:00 AM during January, February, and March is when death knocks hardest at the door. For milestone events like major holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, the power of the human spirit is often strong enough to make it “a few more days” before passing.

Being aware of these numbers and their source has an upside: it robs death of its power. Death becomes not so much magical and unknown as predictable and quantifiable.

Despite entering the third quarter of my own game, it’s still all to play for if my psychic friend is to be believed. Time to celebrate life while we still have our health.

And thanks mom for the new subscription.

How has death shaped the way you currently live your life?


– feature image – thejasonarcher.com

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5 responses to “A Different New York Times Obituary”

  1. I don’t think you can contemplate life without contemplating death. Our mortality gives dimension to every moment of our lives.
    I agree with you quantifying death is just plain wrong.
    I enjoyed your post.

  2. Wow. What a way to find out about your mother’s ex-husband’s death. And yay to your mom for gifting you a subscription. As for me, I started to become interested in death when my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer back in the mid 80’s. (He lived almost 26 years with it, including a year on hospice when he didn’t die – and in fact got stronger- so they took him off it. He died about five years after that). These days I am aware that our death is in part a planned event (well, several potential exit points exist), and because I don’t remember the pre-birth planning around my death, I don’t get to wound up about it. At times I can’t wait for the sweet relief from the shit of life- and there has been much for me. But I also know that I came here into a physical body to have experiences that I can’t have as a purely spiritual form, and I’m trying to find the enjoyment in it all. The only time I fear death is when I think of leaving before my son is old enough to be out there on his own, rocking this world. But I really don’t think that will happen. As for psychic predictions about anything: know that they are looking at one possibility, the most likely possibility at that moment. And that you change future outcomes all the time with every decision you make. For that reason, take psychic future predictions of any sort with a grain of salt. Will they happen? Maybe. Can they happen? Possibly. Finally, something I read recently that was channeled from a talented medium, is that “no one dies without permission.” Your life force energy doesn’t just randomly stop. It is only withdrawn with permission between your soul and God/ Source/ The Divine/ Life Force Energy (whatever you choose to call it).

  3. Death didn’t shape the way I live my life, suffering did. Reading your post I realised how little experience I have with death:), especially compering to you. Anyhow, for me it’s just a transformation, almost like going to sleep and waking up again.

  4. First time I saw death I was 11 years old (just started senior school); my Grandad died; the afternoon before as I left his house he asked for his usual kiss and cuddle and my reply was “I’m too big for that now granddad”, regretted it ever since! Three different times I’ve sat at my son’s hospital bedside praying that death does not come knocking ……..and it was close – It’s made me realise that you MUST tell/show the people who matter that you LOVE them, WHILE YOU STILL CAN – I treasure time with my parents now very because I know that I am so lucky to still have them. Thank you for the reminder!

  5. I enjoyed your post. Love the questions at the end of your posts! The death of my Grandfather made me long to see him again one day. His funeral was dark and without emotion, so his death did not reflect his life at all to me. Had I been older, I would have given him a celebration at his funeral! The death of my Grandmother made me see the importance of having my health during our short stay here on earth. I try hard to take care of myself and eat right because of the pain she went through. The death of my Mother-in-law taught me about how much of a positive impact one person can have in the lives of other people and I am hopeful that I can project even half of the positivity that she gave to me. I’m looking forward to a reunion with these wonderful people one day in heaven. Finally, I’m most thankful for Christ’s death on the cross that will make that possible for me one day. Thank you for your blog! It’s very interesting.

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