He died doing what he hated


Gary Abernathy - Contributing columnist



When my time comes, I hope I die doing something that I hate.

I was thinking about this because over the weekend I read a story online about a man from Australia who passed away at age 68, and his loved ones said they took comfort because he “died doing one of the things he loved the most in the world, taking photos of birds in beautiful bushland with his wife and friends “

This is a common sentiment when someone we know and love passes away suddenly. If they happen to leave this earth in the middle of doing something they loved to do, it often serves as a comforting thought. “He died doing what he loved.” I’ve said the same thing many times over the years.

But, speaking for myself, I would prefer to die doing something that I hate. If I died doing something that I love, I think I’d be pretty upset that I didn’t get to finish it.

There are things I really hate to do. For example, I hate raking leaves in the fall. Sometimes I don’t rake them, but I usually regret it when spring rolls around. So if you ever hear that I dropped dead raking leaves, you should think to yourself, “At least he died doing something that he hated.”

Same for shoveling snow. Since we all have to die sometime, I’d much rather die shoveling snow from my driveway than, say, sitting in my recliner with a bowl of M&Ms watching the NBA Playoffs. Dying while doing something that you hate gives you the world’s greatest excuse for not finishing the job.

As I’ve mentioned before, I hate long meetings. Whether I’m a participant in the meeting or covering it for the newspaper, any meeting that goes longer than an hour is, in my opinion, a failed meeting. So if I’m in a meeting and it goes into the second hour and I happen to drop dead, anyone who cares should console themselves by saying, “He was probably happy because he didn’t have to sit through the rest of that meeting.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’d like to live to be about 110. Or more. I have no desire to die whether doing something I love, something I hate, or something I’m ambivalent about. But we all have to go sometime. Death and taxes, you know. So it just seems to me that the more fortunate circumstance would be dying in the middle of doing something you really hate to do.

Of course, it’s not always possible to know whether someone was doing something they loved or hated when they expired. For instance, I love playing basketball. About six years ago I ruptured my Achilles tendon playing basketball, and I decided I was getting too old to play anymore, at least when it comes to all-out competitive games.

But I still like to go out once in a while and just shoot on a basket in my backyard – you know, just stand-still foul shots, maybe a game of HORSE, nothing strenuous. Sometimes I still have a hot streak where it seems I can’t miss. I could close my eyes with my back to the basket and still swish every shot. When that happens, I am truly doing something that I love.

Other times I can’t hit the side of a barn. I can’t make a foul shot. Even layups roll off the rim. This is when I do what I have always done – curse at the basketball.

When I was young growing up on the farm practicing by myself and had bad shooting days, I would sometimes get so mad that I would throw or kick the basketball as far as I could send it.

This was not logical, because I did not have an endless supply of basketballs at hand, and there was no one but me to go traipsing across the yard or the field to retrieve it.

But trudging a long distance to retrieve the basketball gave me time to cool down, and then I would spend the walk back to the court calmly talking to the basketball, but sternly warning it that it had better start going through the hoop or there would be even worse consequences, possibly including deflation or puncturing. This usually worked.

So the point is, if I dropped dead shooting baskets by myself, it would really be impossible for anyone else to know whether I died doing something that I loved or something that I hated. It would all depend on whether I was having a good shooting day or not. I would rather die having a bad shooting day. If I was swishing every shot, I’d hate for that hot streak to abruptly end.

Most people agree that the absolute best way to leave this earth is to die peacefully in your sleep. Maybe, but I think that depends on what you have planned for tomorrow. Collecting that $10 million jackpot from the state lottery? Not great timing. Raking leaves? Good to go.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or by email at gabernathy@civitasmedia.com.

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Gary Abernathy

Contributing columnist