A lady who is a friend of both my dearest co-worker and my sweetheart is dying tonight. She’s been under hospice care for some time and her family has gathered this weekend because the time has drawn near. I think it’s wonderful that she’s surrounded by love, surrounded by those she cares for and who care for her as she spends her last minutes on this plain. I know this is the kind of death most people (when they dare to think about their own deaths at all) aspire to. I’m not one of those people.

I’m not a bit afraid of death, but I have a genuine horror of lying sick in a hospital bed somewhere waiting for it to overtake me. I don’t want to go out like that. I can’t think of anything worse than letting death take me on its terms, at the time and place of its choosing.

If I have the misfortune of knowing that death is stalking me more closely than is requisite for my moral comfort, I want the presence of mind to meet that mother fucker on my terms. I want the strength to strap on my spiritual weapons and to meet death at high noon on a dusty street somewhere while tumbleweeds blow across the landscape.

“I heard you were looking for me,” I’d say.

“Looks like I found you,” Death would reply.

I squint.

Death squints.

I ease my hand down toward my sidearm, fingers flexing. “Are you sure you want to do this, Hoss?”

Death sighs. “Got no choice, Slim.”

I nod. “Okay, then. But I have only one question for you, Death. Do you feel lucky today, punk? Well, do ya?”

When death takes me, as he naturally will some day, I want him to come out of the fray with his robe torn, his scythe bent, and his faith in his own inexorability shaken. I want him to go home battered and bruised. I want him to sit in his recliner in front of the TV and pop a beer and say to Mrs. Death, “That was a rough one, honey.”

Yeah, I’m ready. I’ve been ready for years. But I warn you now, Death, it’s going to be a cage match. Better eat your Wheaties, my friend.