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It Wouldn’t Kill Me to Die


A year and three months after the death of my husband Charles, I took a trip with Laura, my sister. Seated aboard a propeller plane and flying over water, we locked eyes.  She said, “I really don’t like this.”

“It wouldn’t kill me to die,” I said.  We began to laugh, triggering uncontrollable hilarity.  Yet, I’d expressed the truth.

A little less than three years after I spoke those words for the first time (Charles died May 25th, 2008), I’ve said them often, like a mantra, to myself and aloud: “It wouldn’t kill me to die.”

I wonder about all those people who feel like me.  I know I’m not alone, just lonely.  I go to the grocery, smile at shoppers, and talk with the cashier.  “I’m fine, thanks. And you?”  I marvel at my ability to wear a cheerful mask when my skin covers an often-churning caldron of discomfort so harsh, I feel sick.  Again, I know.  I understand that there are many like me, everywhere, measuring out their lives in portions of pain and pretense.

It wouldn’t kill me to die.

I’ve made declarations about choosing life.  Choosing to have a big, wonderful life. Taking courses.  Signing up for this and that.  Running.  Biking. Being grateful.  Going to a movie.  Writing.  Participating in the peace and justice movement.  An attempt at romance. Prosecco evening, Thursdays, on the patio at my neighborhood restaurant at Cross Keys, or as I call it: The Realm of Cross Purposes.

I listen as a garbage disposal grinds noise that enters my solitude, reminding me of another time, years ago, when we lived in Nashville.  I’d hear a rasp of moving parts, the opening of the garage door, and know that within a couple of minutes, Charles would climb the stairs to the hallway near the kitchen.

It wouldn’t kill me to die.

I long for the sound of his snoring—the snoring that woke me or that started before I could get to sleep. I’d awaken him (not always gently) and tell him to turn over.  And I think about his response: “Thank you, honey, I love you.”  Yes, he’d thank me and tell me he loved me. Told me once he liked the deliciousness of drifting, drifting back to sleep.

Sometimes, I lie in bed, unable to sleep, hearing nothing but the ceiling fan.  It wouldn’t kill me to die.

My mother (who died in April of 2011) expressed herself beautifully, especially when she’d write a note of condolence to a grieving family. “May your memories bring comfort” usually closed her heartfelt words to those who’d lost someone.  She never wrote the words again after Chase was killed in Iraq, because she learned that memories are painful. We talked about this when Charles died.  And, again, seven months later when my father died.  For me, memories bring:  It wouldn’t kill me to die.

In the months after Charles’ death, I was on a mission to impart the message of life and death’s great gift–that every second should be cherished.  I thought of wasted time, a little argument about something stupid.  A complaint.  Pouting over the meaningless.  Pouting, period. I’d choose any opportunity to tell a friend, acquaintance, even a stranger about the importance of treasuring time together, making every moment count.  Before I realized that there’s an inability to comprehend death’s void, the loved one’s disappearance, until it personally shatters.

It wouldn’t kill me to die.

On Tuesday, I saw a feel-good movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Frequently, Sonny Kapoor, played by the marvelous actor Dev Patel, says: “Everything will be all right in the end.  So, if it’s not all right, it is not, yet, the end.”  Depending on an individual’s emotions, humor, the mind’s context, this quote has different interpretations.

I think it is not, yet, the end.  Because it is not all right.

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Email:   


Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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