97, Coming to Terms & Goodbye (An atheist faces his own death) by Michael Lee Johnson

Wait until I have to say goodbye,

don’t rush; I’m a philosophical professor

facing my own death on my own time.

It takes longer to rise to kick the blankets back.

I take my pills with water and slowly lift

myself out of bed to the edge of my walker.

Living to age 97 is an experience I share

with my caretaker and so hard to accept.

It’s hard for youngsters who have not experienced

old age to know the psychology of pain

that you can’t put your socks on or pull

your own pants up without help anymore—

thank God for suspenders.

“At a certain point, there’s no reason

to be concerned about death, when you die,

no problem, there’s nothing.”

But why in my loneness, teeth stuck

in with denture glue, my daily pillbox complete,

and my wife, Leslie Josephine, gone for years,

why does it haunt me?

I can’t orchestrate, play Ph.D. anymore,

my song lyrics is running out, my personality

framed in a gentler state of mind.

I still think it necessary to figure out

the patterns of death; I just don’t know why.

“There must be something missing

from this argument; I wish I knew.

Don’t push me, please wait; soon

is enough to say goodbye.

My theater life, now shared, my last play,

coming to this final curtain, I give you

grace, “the king of swing,” the voice of

Benny Goodman is silent now,

an act of humanity passes, no applause.

*Dedicated to the memory of Herbert Fingarette, November 2, 2018 (aged 97). 

1 thought on “97, Coming to Terms & Goodbye (An atheist faces his own death) by Michael Lee Johnson

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