He woke up today, coughing. A dry, choking, hacking cough that kept going until he was gasping for breath. At that moment he was certain that this would be the day. At the age of ninety, there was one certainty in his life and that was death. When the coughing finally stopped, he laid on his back and thought about dying. His chest hurt and felt heavy while he his heart was racing.

Death was always a certainty, of course, and many time he imaging he might be facing death. There had been times in his life when he had sharp headaches and he worried that he may have an aneurysm or maybe a tumor but those headaches just went away in a matter of hours. A chest pain that might be lung cancer or a heart attack just turned out to be indigestion. But now he was ninety, and he was well aware that he had already outlived the life expectancy of the average man by about fifteen years! It was now a matter of reality. He thought about his daughter and her regular drop-in visits when she brought groceries, meds, and fresh laundry. Living alone since his divorce decades ago, he knew that one day his daughter would find him face down on the floor, slumped in his chair or in bed, cold and stiff.

When the coughing stopped, it took every bit of energy and determination to push himself up to sit at the edge of his bed, waiting for enough breath to walk the few steps to the kitchen and start a pot of coffee.

As he waited for the coffee he asked himself if he would call an ambulance or just breathe his last breath alone. There was no reason to delay death, since he had had the benefit of a long life and no reason to complain. Yet, if he could get emergency medical assistance and give himself a few more years, why not? He enjoyed talking with his daughter when she stopped in and he was always happy to hear his son’s voice when he called from California every few weeks. Yet, the idea of an ambulance sitting in front of his house with lights flashing and neighbors peering out their windows and watching from their front porch as he was being wheeled out on a gurney was a nightmarish thought. So what would he do in those last few hours?

His coffee was ready. His heart had stopped racing, his breathing had returned to near normal and after his coffee he would turn on his radio.

Today would not be his day to die.

02/15/2017 © Don Lehman