“The Good Night”
The sun has just set below the opposite shore’s tree line as he begins to wade into the lake, naked, his eyes fixed on the floating dock positioned in the middle. The water is cold but he quickly makes his way out to where the water is waist deep and then he launches himself forward beginning to swim.
As he strokes, arm over arm, he struggles to make any headway at all and he thinks to himself that it is the cancer but he knows it is simply old age. “Bummer getting old,” he thinks, “nothing works like it once did,” raising another arm and throwing it forward into the water, finally finding a rhythm with his feet kick.
About halfway to the dock, the cold water makes the calf muscle of his right leg cramp and the pain of it forces him to immediately turn over on to his back and begin to massage it. “Interesting how some lessons learned can be so easily remembered,” he thinks, floating on his back, now just floating. So nice: his ears below the water line, not hearing anything at all and the sky above beginning to take on a nice night-time blue hue.
Once he is sure the leg cramp is gone completely, he begins to swim again in the direction of the dock.
Finally, he reaches the dock and finds the wooden ladder attached to one side and lifts him self up on top of the floating barge. At first, he simply stands and celebrates his achievement, surveying everything around him with his eyes and ears. The forests around the shores are completely dark now but he can make out where the lake ends and the forest begins and although faint, he can hear whippoorwills calling all around him. “So quiet, so peaceful here,” he thinks, eventually sitting down on the rough cut boards of the dock and then eventually laying down on his back, spread eagle, looking up at the night’s sky.
“So nice here, the lake, the quiet, so peaceful. I sure have loved it here, this place, this living.” Oh, they say the chemotherapy has been or will be successful, but he knows in his gut that he is going to die and soon. The thought makes him sad. “Should have done more. Should have given more. Should have lived more. Well I got what I got and did what I could. Hope God saw it, saw what I tried to do.”
As the air begins to cool, he begins to feel cold but it is a good kind of cold. “Good to feel things,” he thinks, “like the time he took a shower in the rain. Like the time he hid naked under a waterfalls.” Always so insulated from reality in this living: air conditioned in the summer, heated in the winter, clothed, covered, insulated but not now. Out in the middle of the lake, he lays naked, beginning to shiver from the cold.
He thinks of his wife and children and what a shock it will be to them but the thought of a lengthy illness and then they having to watch him deteriorate slowly into death, well, it this is better, he is sure.
Finally, the moon rises above the shoreline forest and he knows it is time. Sitting up, he shuffles his butt over to the dock ladder and finding the chain and lock, begins to pull up the boat anchor he placed there earlier in the day. “Nice big heavy boat anchor, maybe 60 pounds,” he thinks as he struggles to bring it to the surface and then lift it up onto the dock. Then without any thoughts or feelings at all, he wraps the loose end of the chain around one of his legs tightly, clips on the lock, and snaps it shut. Has always been this way with him, get presented a problem and find a way to solve it, no matter what it takes. And this so much more of a man’s way to go out than simply taking sleeping pills and never waking up. He knows he will struggle, fight, as it should be.
He has wondered about others in his situation: the man on death row being led to the lethal injection room; the woman headed into open heart surgery with little chance of surviving; others with their end in clear sight. What did they think and feel? Were they afraid, out of their mind with fear? Remorse? Regret? Anger? He feels none of these. Living has been such a treat, a miracle and he is so grateful for it.
Again, his wife and children come to mind and he is overwhelmed with sadness for a moment but only a moment and then looking up at the full moon now shining brightly over him and the lake, he kicks the boat anchor over the side of the dock and is immediately jerked off the dock into the water.
He knew he would, could not help it, holds his breath as he descends below the lake surface, the weight of the boat anchor obeying the laws of gravity, headed for the bottom some 50 feet below the surface. As he descends, he looks upward and see the moon light begin to fade and darkness surround him and then when his lungs can stand it no longer, he exhales and with that first gulp of the lake, struggles with his arms and feet, fights. "Thank you", he thinks one last time.