When I was little, I loved playing the game of Life. It was magnificently filled with possibility. Pick a career, choose a house.

When my own kids were little, we rewrote the rules (marriage became gender fluid, for example, and totally optional) and the game, modified, continued on as a favorite. What is odd, is that the game ends in retirement and the one and only thing that all of us will experience, regardless of the choices we have made, is not on the board at all.

I speak, of course, of death.

I suppose it is not really that strange that the game stops short. It is a game after all, and death is not a fun-time topic. But death is real, and it is ever present, and it is worth some thought.

Death is particularly on my mind this week as I’ve been watching two very different versions unfold. On the one hand, the news is once again filled with the tragedy, grief, and rage of another mass shooting. Two, in fact. We watch the news, we see the bodies, we hear the shots, we wonder what to do. We watch in frustration as the issue gets debated along party lines for scoring points, while actual discussion, comprehension, and solution evades us. These are senseless, painful and anguished deaths.

At the same time, I have been watching a dear friend as she, in turn, watched her father die. The diagnosis of an inoperable tumor came out of the blue, and not long ago. It was clear things would move swiftly. He was a good man, who had lived a good life. When he was told of the impending end, he bowed to it with a grace that was astounding.

I do not know the inner workings of his mind, but to all outward appearances, he made his peace with the news. Loved ones were called, and loved ones gathered. His affairs were in order and he set about using his remaining time writing letters, eating ice cream, and playing board games. Hospice arrived and in his time, he slipped quietly away into sleep, leaving behind a poem for his family to find after he was gone.

My friend is, of course, mourning the loss of her father. He will be missed. His children, his grandchildren, his friends – all will feel the hole he has left in their lives. And yet, at the same time, I think we can all agree, this was a good death. I know for myself, this is certainly the death I would choose for myself. To slip away, painlessly, surrounded by the ones you love, having had a chance to say all the things that need to be said.

And then again, there is the network news.

It is beyond my comprehension that our nation is now averaging more than one mass shooting per day. But we are. It is beyond my understanding that we are not rising above partisan squabbling to create actual fact-based solutions. But we are not. Yet the answers are out there. Other nations have ideas. Let’s shelve the squabbles and get down to the real work, so that we all may have not only a kind death, but a rich and meaningful life.


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