Ars moriendi ("The Art of Dying") is the name of two related Latin texts dating from about 1415 and 1450 which offer advice on the protocols and procedures of a good death, explaining how to "die well" according to Christian precepts of the late Middle Ages. It was written within the historical context of the effects of the macabre horrors of the Black Death 60 years earlier and consequent social upheavals of the 15th century. It was very popular, translated into most West European languages, and was the first in a western literary tradition of guides to death and dying.I made some weak attempts at finding an English translation. Unsuccesful, yet very moved by the idea of how to have a "good death," I decided to write my own counsel.
In the wiki entry there are six chapter headings. These will be my guide. I hope you can die well after consulting this:
The first chapter explains that dying has a good side, and serves to console the dying man that death is not something to be afraid of.
You are dying. If you didn't know this or want to know this then you are reading the wrong post. I'm supposed to convince you that dying has a good side. Since I don't know what that is, we can brainstorm together. Obviously this is not the good part of the process. Sitting here contemplating your mortality isn't how I planned to spend my morning either.
Something good about death is that you don't have to worry about what it all means. Too bad you didn't consider that sooner. When you had time to capitalize on that knowledge. Like say, the realization that agonizing over any decision is ultimately pointless since the consequences are largely negated by your passing. Disclaimer: your belief system may propose consequences for your choices. However unlikely that seems.
Anyhow, between now and your passing you have carte blanche.
I know it seems like a bad time. But consider that most the important events in your life were ill timed. I know you had things yet to do. Are they unfinished now or just unimportant?The second chapter outlines the five temptations that beset a dying man, and how to avoid them. These are lack of faith, despair, impatience, spiritual pride and avarice.
You are to be tempted in your final moments. You will suffer a lack of faith. This is normal and possibly the sanest response.
You will be beset by despair. This usually means your death is not as spectacular as it could be. In this case the obvious solution is to engage in some ill advised and very dangerous activity. If that doesn't rid you of despair try the various substances you used for despair during your life.
You will have little patience in your final moments. Who has time for manuals on dying or talking to automated phone systems? The poorly designed interface on your phone will probably hasten the inevitable anyway.
You may feel proud of your piety. Or feel self-satisfied with your donations to the church. I sure hope you picked the right one! It is a bit of a crap shoot isn't it? What with so many religions and gods. Yours is the right one, isn't it?
Don't be jealous that others will wake up tomorrow without you. We are all standing in line at the DMV of life. And everyone is in a hurry to get their number called.The third chapter lists the seven questions to ask a dying man, along with consolation available to him through the redemptive powers of Christ's love.
So let's ask the right questions now:
Before it's too late:
While there is still time: Yes.
Who are you? If you don't know by now, then be quick!
What does it all mean? This will be graded on style over substance.
Why are we here? Nevermind. I'm asking the questions here.
Where is your god now? pretty standard stuff.
When do we eat? That one is for me. You are dying, so you eat whatever is on your plate.
How does it all end? The answer shortly; after the jump.
There were seven questions? Hmmm.The fourth chapter expresses the need to imitate Christ's life.
Ideally you will have imitated your heroes in life. Maybe Christ, Buddha, Keanu, Ghandi, Your 6th grade teacher, that guy in the office downstairs, Joseph Campbell, and of course Al Bundy.The fifth chapter addresses the friends and family, outlining the general rules of behavior at the deathbed.
Your Family and Friends should carry on like idiots as you are dying. They should also fake smile and talk about everything EXCEPT the obvious. Every time someone leaves the room they should hi-five the next visitor on the way in. There should be lots of gossiping in the hall. Especially about cousin Daryl. You know what I mean. I can't believe he's here either. There is plenty of guilt to go around. This is best alleviated by screaming children, going outside to smoke, and hurried calls to the office. Someone in the family should be nice enough to provide some self absorbed drama to distract everyone. Oh, and couples don't forget to get RAGING horny for each other later. This is the only proof of concept vs. your own mortality.The sixth chapter includes appropriate prayers to be said for a dying man.
Now we lay you to rest. You will be missed. Even by those who hadn't seen you in years. Stuff will go on.
But the ABSENCE.
That's what we will feel. The yawn of unoccupied spirit that you vacate. It will sweep over us at odd moments.
And those moments will have a sweetness to them that you left there as a surprise.