Abnormal Psychology

What I Think About When I Think About Death

This was really just an excuse to give Adam McGill credit for the Raymond Chandler-inspired Krys Boyd headline.

One tree in field
Via iStockphoto.com

I have been a little obsessed with death over the last few weeks. I randomly started a list of nonfiction stories about people who saw death coming. Then Tim Rogers interviewed Krys Boyd for his wonderful profile in the April issue (“What to Think About When You Think About Krys Boyd”), which caused him to get a little wet-eyed and necessitated a discussion at our desks about the sudden death of Krys’ first husband from heart failure and the slow death of Diane Rehm’s husband from Parkinson’s and the question of which is better—to have notice of loss, or not.

I’ve had both, sudden loss and advance-notice loss. I’d say it’s a toss-up.

The particular loss that has been on my mind, though, is that of my mother. She died from sepsis after a week in the hospital from what started as a cold, or bronchitis, or pneumonia that she caught as a high school English teacher. She was 65. I pretty much just realized a few minutes ago, while multi-tasking and searching for a Mother’s Day item for the Style section of the magazine and instead finding yet another article about death on the New York Times website, that I may have death on the brain because, well, Mother’s Day is coming up. And this will be the 10th anniversary of losing her.

That’s a story for another time. For today, I’ll share my list of stories about people who saw death coming, including one from the brilliant Jamie Thompson, who right now is working on a story about sudden inexplicable loss for the May issue.

If you need something a little more uplifting, check out Carl Richards’ brief NYT piece from last week about how he made a no-regrets wish list after he thought he might lose his wife in a climbing accident but didn’t. If you think that’s still too dark, don’t. I also happen to be reading Ian Robertson’s book The Stress Test at my desk for an interview with the T. Boone Pickens Distinguished Scientist at the Center for BrainHealth, and he says setting goals, small or large, is one of the keys to a happier life and staving off Alzheimer’s, which I’m pretty sure is what’s going to get me.

I just hope I don’t see it coming.

MY TOP 5 NONFICTION STORIES ABOUT SEEING DEATH COMING:

1. The Death of a Poet by Michael Berryhill, D Magazine

2. Going Out Like Fireworks by Jeffrey Weiss, Dallas Morning News

3. When the River Rises by Jamie Thompson, Texas Monthly

4. You May Want to Marry My Husband by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, New York Times

5. Geraldine Largay’s Wrong Turn: Death on the Appalachian Trail by Jess Bidgood and Richard Pérez-Peña, New York Times

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