Do Not Go Gentle

 Do Not Go Gentle

By Lou Pastina

The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote a poem in 1947 called “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.” It is believed that he wrote it about his father, who was dying, and that his father should “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Pretty heavy stuff, especially from a guy who literally drank himself to death at the White Horse Tavern on Hudson Street in the West Village. The White Horse is still there, by the way, in case you get the urge to follow in Dylan’s footsteps; however, I strongly urge you to reconsider, at least the alcohol part.

Let’s face it, we are all going to die, no matter how much yoga, basketball, bike riding, aerobics we do. At some point the body parts and maintenance just wears out. New hips, new knees, transplants all give us more years, better years, but none of it comes with a universal warranty. For those of us in our later years, we may have already said goodbye to mothers and fathers, friends and relatives. Every time someone from our generation or the one before us passes, it’s a gentle reminder that we are next up in the queue.

My mom always said if she knew the end was coming around the corner, she would smoke and drink and go by the way of our Welsh friend. I can honestly say there might be something to that. My late, great father-in-law, Big Bill Stogey, wanted to go with the Viking funeral, you know like Kirk Douglas in the movies. They set his body on a raft and sent it out to sea, and then fired arrows out to it lighting it on fire, to blaze his path to Valhalla. Very dramatic stuff.

When we were younger, we never considered that there is an end for us. When you get to the back nine, with the club house in sight, you do everything you can do to lengthen the game. So, we eat better, go to doctors, talk to our friends about what doctors we go to, nap, take our medications, play the game. Somehow the thoughts creep in from time to time, what will happen to me? Another great saying of my father-in-law’s was: don’t get hit by a car, wait for the bus. Morbid, certainly! He was as Irish as they come. When he wasn’t singing, dancing, telling jokes, he was talking about his dead relatives and friends. But maybe he was on to something. In other words, don’t go half-heartedly, live life to the fullest, and if you gotta go, make sure the job gets done.

You may now be saying, alrighty Laser, what gives, you get a bad diagnosis. And the answer is, no, but I am certainly melancholy about the old days. They seemed simpler, more hopeful. My refuge is Rockaway. I walked down to the water this week and the water was crystal clear. And swimming in the waves in front of me were striped bass. Striped bass in the surf, in Rockaway! Very cool. On a bike ride recently, I was surrounded by dragonflies. Now they may look ferocious but don’t be afraid, they neither bite nor sting. They rode with me, darting in and out, around and in front of my bike. There were more than I remember in recent times. After the blistering heat we had, there were gentle cool breezes, the sound of the waves crashing at night, the church bells ringing. All things that remind me to not go gently into that good night, but to continue to rage on, and live life, here in Rockaway Beach.


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