In June of 2007, I cut out this quote from an AARP article titled: “50 Things One Should Know How To Do By Age 50:”
“HOW TO DIE – The point of the party is not your leaving it. Apologize for any breakage, thank your hosts, listen when they say they were glad you could come, mean it when you say you had a wonderful time, then grab your coat and go. Make sure the door closes behind you. Don’t forget your hat.”
That’s exactly what I’ve been saying all along about the art of dying and how to go gracefully. My third book, a scripted novel called “And Yet A Little While” deals with the subject of death in the larger context of birth; life and its living; and life and its leaving. That’s why I had to applaud my son and how he handled his departure. (See Two Months Ago, My Son Died, a couple of blogs back)
It is true that the point of the party is neither your own personal arrival nor your departure. For each of us, it’s about what happens during your time at the party itself. Did you enjoy it? Did you contribute to its success and add to the whole of it? Or did you simply fill your plate and go sulk in the corner?
Did you consume everyone’s attention in your refusal to leave the party at your appointed time? Did you drink too much or steal the host’s silverware? Or, did you lend a hand, tell some funny jokes, make a lonely person feel included and have a genuinely good time yourself? Would you be invited back again? Will anyone remember that you attended?
I think the party analogy is a very good one for examining a life lived out on earth. That works for me. The dying analogy of how one leaves is good too. If an early departure becomes necessary, be sure that you don’t forget the protocol by bumbling out like an ox, thinking only of yourself or swearing that all the fun will be gone from the event, once you are not there to add to its luster. No. One should quietly say their goodbyes and make an exit without spoiling the party for everyone else. It doesn’t mean that you won’t be missed or that you shouldn’t stick around as long as you’re permitted to. But if the taxi is honking in the street, it’s time to go.
The “point of the party” is not simply about one person’s presence within it. The party of life is an ongoing celebration of well-lived lives, some still in progress and others not. The singing, the dancing, the wallflowering, the romancing and the stepped-on toes will still go on, long after you have taken your leave.
It’s just a party. There will be others, you know.