GO GENTLY INTO THE GOOD NIGHT

Sunset....night soon will come

Sunset..then gently into the night
Sunset..then gently into the night

Crossing the Bar

Personal Note: I wrote this piece 16 years ago for a local association journal. Although quite dated, the feelings I had then have come full circle, now that I am on the cusp of entering my "olden" years and all that it implies. I also just became (after a long and interminable wait) a first time grandfather when my eldest daughter gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Devin.

Eighteen years ago when I was 28 years old, thoughts of the grim reaper kept creeping up from my sub-conscious while I was engaged in the most mundane of tasks, like waiting for the bus to go to work, or shopping at the grocery store, or watching Lucy on television. That these thoughts started early on was, to say the least, disconcerting but not for the usual reasons of not having ever done anything yet of significance in my life, or of losing the chance at making good on a great deal of its untidiness. I thought that this premature preoccupation with death unrelated to any suicidal ideation--- on the contrary to dread of it, had to do with the unbearable feeling of not knowing, if I die early, how my children were going to turn out when they become adults themselves and have responsibilites of their own.

Now that middle age has started to creep in, the dread that I used to feel 18 years ago has been replaced with, I must admit, a still less than serene acceptance of the inevitability of death. This is partly due to the fact that my responsibility to ensure that my children obtain the basic attitudes toward experiencing a meaningfully lived life is still ongoing and will not be completed until after they all have become responsible adults. At the same time, the other reasons mentioned above are just now starting to loom larger and larger in the horizon. I have begun to ask myself-- what have I done so far for me to say that life, outside of my family, has meaning beyond the obvious, i.e. taking care of of sick and not so sick children? Do I and will I have time enough to say the final grace note of sorry, goodbye, and thank you?

The pace of self-questioning and sel-examination quickened somewhat when my eldest daughter announced, during one of her episodic breaks away from college, that she and her current steady have decided to get married. It dawned on me several days later that I was not ready to do a Steve Martin bit of acting wild and crazy, like any father of the bride the first time around, and indeed would not be ready until another 10 years. Her getting married so soon is certainly not going to help me fend off the arrival of full blown middle-agehood. The arrival of a baby, which I assume would come sooner than later, could conceivably complicate my attempts to live the remainder of my life in as dignified a way as possible. Arguably, there is nothing to dignify ones life when, while baby-sitting, one has to change a dirty diaper at 12 midnight, or calm a colicky baby at 3:30 a.m. or prepare a bottle of formula at 5:00 a.m.

I could imagine that being a grandparent and its attendant "chores" would be daunting. On the other hand one could experience the haunting even dignified rewards of grandparenthood...... you know, the excited half-gurgling half-cooing sound of a baby upon waking up in the morning, or the pitter-patter of small feet when a toddler sneaks behind you to give you a sudden gleeful hug, or the pride of the pre-schooler who shows you the finger painting so close to your face that the still wet colors smudge you eyeglasses.

The circle, it appears, is close to becoming a full one, and now that I find myself facing the prospect of being a grandfather, the possibility of facing old age, and by inference, death, in the not too distant future does not seem as dreadful as it used to be 18 years ago. I may yet be able to comprehend the reality that doing something significant in my life may not involve anything more than being able to make a difference in the lives of my grandchildren.

My only wish, when the time comes and I'm face to face with the grim reaper, is for my doctor friends and peers to allow me the dignified, gentle, gracious and short journey into the night that I so well deserve.

Comments 7 comments

jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines

I guess thoughts about meeting the grim reaper sometimes cross our mind. I usually just banish such thoughts and just concentrate on the present.

I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and feelings on this topic. This is beautiful!

God bless!


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago

DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rage at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas


A.Villarasa profile image

A.Villarasa 6 years ago from Palm Springs Author

Thank you for posting this luminous poem by Dylan Thomas as a counterpoint to my hub. If I am not mistaken, and just as point of reference, the poet wrote this poem at the time when his beloved father was in his death bed. A very human reaction to the impending loss of a loved one. Contextually, my hub refers more to my own potential passing... my feelings being that I, after having lived a fulfilling and meaningful life deserves to be allowed to go gently into the good night and not to linger on and on and on being sustained by life support systems that modern medicine provides.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago

I sure agree about modern medicine. I hadn't heard about the occasion on which Dylan Thomas wrote the poem. He was in NYC when I was in college in New York and was quite popular among students at that time. I used to have an LP of him reading his poems.


A.Villarasa profile image

A.Villarasa 6 years ago from Palm Springs Author

The last 4 lines of the poem is directly addressed to his dying father. His trying to rally his father's lagging body and spirit is as I noted above an all too human reaction to the impending loss of a loved one.


Druid Dude profile image

Druid Dude 5 years ago from West Coast

Happy anniversary!


A.Villarasa 5 years ago

Hello Dude,

Thanks for dropping by.

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