I Asked If He Was Afraid

He paused, then said…


There’s something about being close to death that strips away all artifice, ego and self-consciousness.

At least, that’s what I’ve encountered.


I knew his prognosis before he himself accepted it, but hope is a precious thing and no one should deflate it for another.

When I saw him last, a couple of days before his death, as he and I were alone together, I asked if he was afraid.

I’ve wondered often since if that was an invasion of his privacy, an imposition upon him with so little time left, but I asked. That’s the truth.

He paused, then said, “Not frightened….more…..disappointed.”

His was a significant intellect. He was extremely well traveled and well read, and so I’ve replayed his answer as often as my question.

In some sense, perhaps most of us will feel disappointment near our end.

Will we look back on our resume, our friendships, our deepest loves without any regret? Who can say that?

I hope we forgive ourselves for our weaknesses and betrayals and, often, the sheer laziness of expedience, our lack of energy for the struggle of being a good parent, a good son or daughter, a good husband or wife, a good person.

That accounting of our decisions and actions, hoping our altruism out-weighs our selfishness need not wait for death to tap us on the shoulder.

By then, we are each the result of billions of daily interactions, of choosing what to notice and what to ignore, how to react, when to be courageous, understanding that courage is not the absence of fear but the willingness to act in the face of overwhelming fear.

Who we are is being shaped every single day we are alive. It never stops.

Maybe we need to keep that realization constantly at the forefront of our consciousness.

Maybe it would help us be kinder, less judgmental, more generous.

I will try, and let you know, if we happen to speak before I go.

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