How to Survive a Deathbed

It’s not SARS, and you’re sure it’s something worse. Even though they say it’s just a cold, you’ve already resigned yourself to death’s icy grip. Ways to make the wait a little more worthwhile.

Though a few callous individuals have suggested you only have a virus, you know the truth: You are on your deathbed. There’s a fire in your head, gruel in your bones, and primordial ooze leaking from your face. The cat takes one sniff of your plague sheets and races off, while an old woman sits next to the bed bereaving the imminent death of an icon. The phone rings every time you fall asleep, and somewhere down the block a car alarm is repeatedly set off, the robot voice hollering, ‘I’ve been tampered with! I’ve been tampered with!’ On TV, the senior golf tour has suddenly become riveting. You’re relating soulfully to the images from the NASA channel, their satellite spinning mindlessly above the Great Plains. You can feel that this is going to be a very long weekend. Here are a few tips to help you get through what are obviously your last hours on earth.


Make a long list of everyone you’ve ever hated. Anyone who’s ever cheated you, screwed you, lied to you or about you, or taken advantage of your good nature; anyone who’s ever tormented you with either their stupidity or their cleverness; anyone you wanted to sleep with but knew it was never going to happen because they were mean; co-workers, bosses, roommates, the weird guy down the hall who always gives you a nasty look in the stairwell. List them all then write below their combined names: ‘My moment of judgment approaches. As I pray for mercy on my poor, wretched soul, I say unto thee with the deepest of humility, You motherfuckers can fuck right the fuck off.’ Then take the best nap of your whole life.


When the fever reaches critical mass and you wonder why the Dick Van Dyke Show is being shown on the ceiling, it’s time to befriend your hallucinations. Imagine owning an estate. Then landscape the whole garden in your mind, adding roses, ponds, gravel paths, swans, dulcimers, nymphs, wise fishermen, etc., as needed. Then imagine family and loved ones strolling the grounds, gazing in wonder at your many splendors as they murmur softly, ‘The taxes on this place are killing us.’


Take a break from vomiting bile to dress up as Caesar. Then make a nice salad and stab it in the back.


Have a loyal retainer—preferably a lover or that distant cousin you always liked so much—go to the library to select some classics of world literature. Then, with Anna Karenina, Catch-22, The Canterbury Tales, Don Quixote, and The Rape of the Lock stacked next to the bed, read Playboy articles on the newest, best DVD players all day long.


See if Viagra really works as well as they say it does. Keep the Playboy and/or the loyal retainer close at hand.


Cut a deal with the organ-donor hotline: You’ll give them your liver plus corneas if they pay off the late fees at the video store. Don’t mention you’ve still got Evil Dead 2 or that it still isn’t rewound.


Back in the good graces of the video place, rent Swingers and watch it repeatedly. Chow pepperoni, glug orange juice from the bottle, and wonder why Heather Graham’s eyes are so odd-looking.


Life is sad and you are dying, so feel free to express previously hidden feelings. Weep at the poignancy of existence, of love, of new and exciting products you will never live to use. Yes, it is a miracle, that orange spray really does get counters clean! God is in his heaven…


Write a note to your mother saying you love her and that if you’ve been a fool it wasn’t because she raised you that way. ‘Yeah, Mom, I did know better that that…’


Write your last letter to Santa. Depending on the frequency of your dashes to the bathroom, ask either to live or to die for Christmas. Make sure to use ‘may’ instead of ‘can’ in your request.


Leave the front door open and heat the whole neighborhood.


Stumble down to the basement and bust out your old Fender, the Marshall stack, plus every distortion pedal you own. Crank the bastard up to nosebleed and play screaming, white-noise feedback from 3AM until the breaking of the dawn. Call your swan song ‘Fuzzy Rainbow Kitten Whiskers.’


Pick your bleeding nose in front of those who’ve stopped by to pay their respects. If they complain, holler, ‘I’ve been tampered with! I’ve been tampered with!’


Should your agony be prolonged, grow braids like Willie Nelson.


Request that any post-mortem urine samples be labeled, ‘King of the Road.’


Call an ex, tell them you had a sex dream last night and that they were in it doing some seriously crazy shit. You’re dying, what’s the point of having shame and dignity anymore?


Still shame-free, refuse to renew those gift subscriptions to the New Yorker you got for all your friends last year. You’ll need the dough to pay for the phone bill anyway.


Call the operator, tell them that you are dying and need to know the time. If they get weirded out, cackle, ‘You’re the operator! For god’s sake, operate!’ and hang-up.


Refuse to give your loyal retainer a break when they put down ‘eg’ at the very end of a Scrabble game. A deathbed is no place to be taken advantage of.


File a frivolous lawsuit. If at all possible, file against the editors of Maxim for being ‘the lamest bunch of jerk-offs ever.’ Then again, suing Maxim may not count as frivolous, and may be more like public service in lieu of time served.


Remember all the years, dollars, and energy wasted on tequila shots, pharmaceuticals, cigarettes, coffee, sleazy movie dates, etc. Admit you should have just mainlined heroin from the very beginning and get a dealer on the horn pronto. Like debts, addictions too can be consolidated.


Pick at the sutures. They can’t really be cat-gut, can they? No wonder Fluffy won’t come near you.


Go through all your books and inscribe them as though you were the author: ‘Doug- Boston Sux! Kidding dude. Bleacher bums forever! Yours, Flaubert’


Buy your first and last pair of alligator shoes. If anyone from PETA gets uppity about it, bite them savagely and drag them under the bed to finish off later.


Get up really early one Saturday morning, pad into the kitchen, pour yourself a bowl of Cheerios with extra sugar dumped on top and watch Loony Tunes until the milk runs down your chin you’re laughing so hard.


It’s getting near the end and you can’t take it anymore. Not even the NASA channel soothes you any longer. You need to get of the house—so grab a can of gasoline and a book of matches, get in the car, and burn the goddamn mall to the ground.


From the bottom of your heart, thank your loyal retainer for being so, so loyal in the face of heartbreak and pain. Then ask if they’ll go to the drive-through for you.


Make a list of all the things you’d do on your deathbed. Then pretend you’re never going to die, burn the list with your last match, and laugh till the milk runs down your chin.


Tobias Seamon recently published the novella The Fair Grounds. More can be found here. More by Tobias Seamon