A TGB READER STORY: Too Close for Comfort
The Alex and Ronni Show. And Trump

Do Not Go Gentle...

Given what you know about my diseases (cancer and COPD) and my being in hospice now, it probably doesn't surprise you that I think about dying a bit more frequently these days - certainly more frequently than when I was younger.

Triggers for those thoughts arrive from many sources or, sometimes, just appear in my mind from no reason I can figure out. In the past few days, it has been lines from Dylan Thomas's poem, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.

Until now, I had no idea I had memorized it. Maybe repeated readings over decades managed that without my noticing. In case you haven't memorized it, here it is. It's short:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

This is, of course, one of the most famous poems in the English language and it is quoted widely in the literature of death and dying so over the years of running this blog, I have frequently come across it.

Let it be said right away that I do not deny the poem's brilliance. I also like its cadence and how the repetitions work so well. What I reject is the message that we must challenge death: “rage, rage against the dying of the light,” particularly when we are old.

That is because I do not want to “burn and rave at close of day.” I want to “go gentle into that good night.”

Going gentle into my personal good night is one reason I have embraced medical aid in dying. Those drugs will send me on my way quietly without a prolonged period of decline or pain.

The fly in this otherwise well-planned ointment is how strongly I am still attached to our world: pandemic, economy, Trump, election, Black Lives Matter, climate change. It may not be pleasant right now but it is certainly the most interesting time during which I have lived.

I so much want to see some of the outcome - the election being number one – while also taking my leave NOT “raging against the dying of the light.”

You can tell this has become a mild obsession because I've written about it here before – recently even: what I worry about is that my diseases will become difficult enough that the only good choice is to depart but my connection to the world will not have dwindled or dropped away. I surely do not want to die clutching for more.

But I have no earthly idea of how to be certain of that.

While making notes for this blog post, I listened to recordings by a variety of people reading this poem. You would be surprised how many there are online. The actor Anthony Hopkins does a lovely job of it:

For a work as powerful as Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, it seems only right to also include the poet himself:

Comments

I have always found this poem terribly masculine. There's a layer of violence beneath it. I believe women's lives are shaped differently.. We're saddened by other stuff. Perhaps the incompletion of our lives. Perhaps dreams suppressed by the way the world is constructed by patriarchy and not matriarchy or even an equal share.

A friend who is quite ill said to me yesterday - I am so saddened by how my dreams all began too late to be realized. I kind of feel the same way about some of mine, though I have been luckier than most.

You have me musing here.

XO
WWW

My two cents is worth just that, or likely much less. The line of this well-known poem that strikes me today is "...wise men at their end know dark is right." Maybe one's connection to the world does dwindle or drop away ... when the time is right, and perhaps not much before. For some, it may not be a prolonged dwindling; rather, perhaps, for them it is a relatively sudden dropping away. Perhaps it is just at the end that one recognizes, Ah, okay, there is the exit, it is time to go. For selfish reasons, I want you to stay here as long as possible, Ronni. But I trust you will know when the time, and the dark, is right.

First, let me say that this is still a powerful poem.

I first read it in my teens and liked it very much. I read a lot of poetry back then. Then--I had no experience of death everyone in my family was still alive--my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were all still living. Dylan Thomas's verse was powerful and I, in my youth thought that all should "...rage against the dying of the light."

Now, I am old and getting older and have experienced many losses. Dying now does not seem so terrible. My loved ones will miss me just as I have missed those who have gone before me. Rest at the end of the day does not seem bad at all. My hope now is to "...go gentle into that good night."

Thanks for this reminder Ronnie and the wisdom you provide us all.

Let us remember that this is the Dylan Thomas who died of alcoholism at the age of 39. An angry young man whose incomprehension of any life other than his own is exemplified in A Refusal to Mourn The Death, By Fire, of a Child in London. The last line : "After the first death, there is no other." The meaning: Once you know that everyone dies, individual deaths should not cause you grief.

Yes, his poetry is magnificent and Fern Hill will always be one of my favorites, but we don't need to turn to him for lessons on living and dying. There are wiser teachers. There is you.

A poem I have always liked...

My Favorite Poem

I had walked since dawn and lay down to rest on a bare hillside
Above the ocean. I saw through half-shut eyelids a vulture wheeling

high up in heaven,

And presently it passed again, but lower and nearer, its orbit
narrowing.

I understood then

That I was under inspection. I lay death-still and heard the flight-
feathers

Whistle above me and make their circle and come nearer.

I could see the naked red head between the great wings
Bear downward, staring. I said, ‘My dear bird, we are wasting time
here.

These old bones will still work; they are not for you.’ But how
beautiful
he looked, gliding down

On those great sails; how beautiful he looked, veering away in the
sea-light

over the precipice.
I tell you solemnly

That I was sorry to have disappointed him.
To be eaten by that beak

and
become part of him,
to share those wings and those eyes–

What a sublime end of one’s body, what an enskyment; what a life
after death.

Robinson Jeffers

Too much raging in this one, and I would much prefer to "go gentle" rather than fighting every inch of the way. I prefer Invictus and the last verse:

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Love to you, oh Paver of the Way
o/

Another vote for "gentle" and for the resources you have lined up. My sense is you will know the time.

In my FIL's extended care home, when my husband visited recently, a resident made the rounds of the dining hall to say goodbye to friends. He had chosen the next day as his last. My husband said everyone was calm, and that the mood was of affection and appreciation. I was impressed by this forthrightness. I hold such exemplars close to me, far closer than Thomas.

Going gentle into that good night....sounds a lot better to me. I am not a person who rages anyway!


As a woman, I vote for "gently," but fervently hope for you to witness the election loss of Trump. Whether any of us will see him leave the White House makes me nonetheless nervous.

What perceptive comments! I agree with you all, and was going to point out that Thomas was a crazy alcoholic, but someone pre-empted me!

I think as death approaches most people become more accepting of it - and even wish for it. Whether or not they are in pain or having unpleasant symptoms, they are just ready to go. I like to think of it as life as a meal. After we have eaten it, we are full, and don't want to eat any more.

We get tired of going to funerals or hearing that college friends have died. I personally am always seeing that "There is nothing new under the sun". Ask awful as our current situation is, it can get a little tedious reading about the last outrage, and the last lack of correction, over and over and over.

I have regrets, and there are things I wish I still could do but can't, due to my physical issues, but there you go. I try to see death as a rest from all the striving and reacting we fill our lives with. The peace that passes understanding.

I'm happy to see so many who, like me, do not want to rage, but rather, to go gently, willingly, even. Like others here, I had a love of this poem when young, probably in college, and knew nothing of life or death. That it contained words about death was so radically new to me, seemed so fiercely courageous, I fell for it. Now, I know that raging is an ineffective way of handling fear. I would rather simply acknowledge the fear, and let it be.
Thanks for the beautiful poem by Robinson Jeffers! Before there were so many ticks here, I would lie out in the field of a Sunday afternoon, and inevitably, a few
buzzards would investigate. I would wave to them and call out, "Not dead yet!" Off they would slope on their huge wings.

Ronni, I completely agree, and I have always been surprised that I only ever hear this poem praised. I've always experienced it as obstinate, grandiose, and stereotypically masculine . That good night is just a much a part of life as the morning and afternoon. Rage against it? What a nonsensical (and even offensive) directive. I share your obsession re: not wanting to clutch at the end. I feel soothed by sentiments like the ones that Walt Whitman expressed as his death approached:

A Clear Midnight

This is thy hour, O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,

Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,

Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best,

Night, sleep, death and the stars.

Ronnie,
Thank for always sharing so honestly. I work in a large hospital and have many conversations with patient's, familiarizes, and other medical staff about death almost daily. Your thoughts about, " my connection to the world will not have dwindled or dropped away" resonate to me as it was similar to my first husbands last thoughts. He died of lung cancer at the age of 41 and maintained his mental capacities until the very end. His last words to me were, "I'm just afraid that I'm going to miss everyone so very much". I tried to assure him that I didn't think that "he" would miss us but that he should know that we would be always missing him. He went gently and I know that we're still missing him and hope that he is no longer worried about missing us.

Ronni,

I am not in hospice , but I also have COPD and take daily medication for serious heart issues. I am 85 years old and I know I am somewhere near the end. I intend to go "gentle". Not for me raging and wailing and flailing—for what? I will still die. The end of life is part of he cycle, just as birth is.

We surely understand your desire to be attacked to the world. I am very interested in the November elections and would be disappointed if I go before we know. But, as others have pointed out—perhaps when the moment comes, all that attachment drops away.

I could not improve on the comments of others here today. so I repeat a few:

There are wiser teachers. There is you.

Another vote for "gentle" and for the resources you have lined up. My sense is you will know the time.

I want you to stay here as long as possible, Ronni. But I trust you will know when the time, and the dark, is right.

Love to you, oh Paver of the Way

Thanks for this reminder Ronnie and the wisdom you provide us all.

Please forgive me if I have offend anyone by repeating your words. I just feel they bear repeating. Ronni, what a wonderful TRIBE you have assembled. Your readers are the best, most articulate, and compassionate folks around.


So many good and comforting comments here already. Although I have considered myself a fan of Dylan Thomas for decades, that's due more to his rich and vsually evocative language in Under Milkwood and A Child's Christmas in Wales than this poem about death. This work seems not to represent the gifts he had as a poet nearly as well tas much of his other writng and I wonder what he would say today about what drove him to choose those words.

Keep on keeping on Ronni. You may surprise yourself and be with us and the world much longer than you seem to be thinking today. Set your sights on next spring and think of what a blessing it might be to make it through another winter. But if that gets to be too hard, do what you have to do. We will love and appreciate you just as much regardless of the course you take.

I've been an advocate of "gentle departure" for as long as I can remember, now even more so since that event is probably in the not-too-distant future for me (providing that I evade COVID-19 in the present). I have zero desire to be "raging" at the end. That might have made sense in my 30s but certainly does not in my 80s+.

I am SO disgusted at the would-be Emperor of tRumpistan's use of "it is what it is" in relation to the nearing-160,000 American deaths from COVID-19--so far. Some TGB'ers may recognize "iiwii" as my mantra in dealing with old age, physical limitations and other situations I must accept/cannot change. What is absolutely infuriating is seeing it applied by the carnival barker-in-chief to deaths from a pandemic that could have been SO much less devastating IF there had been competent, engaged leadership at the top 6 months ago. Bah, humbug!

I'm all for the going gently without any raging.

What I want for you, Ronnie, is to not have ANY pain and be surrounded by those you love most.

Per Duchesse's comment about the gentleman who went around the dining room saying good-bye to each of his friends, I also hope that you will say good-bye to all of us before you go.

I dread opening your blog and finding out from someone else that you have gone.

Peace and Love.

As long as you're engaged with the world and not in too much pain, I for one hope you'll still be with us to see the outcome of the presidential election. I am hopeful we will all be celebrating with you!

Thank you, Ronnie. I have been on a James Baldwin jag. Here is a quote,
"When the dream was slaughtered, and all that love and labor seemed to have come to nothing, we scattered..... We knew where we had been, what we had tried to do, who had cracked, gone mad, died, or been murdered around us.

Not everything is lost. Responsibility cannot be lost, it can only be abdicated. If one refuses abdication, one begins again. " James Baldwin.

I ain't abdicating nothing. Go gentle, Ronnie. We will persist after you are in spirit.

Raging against the inevitable sounds hideous and pathetic to me. I'm on Team Gentle with you and others, Ronni.

Ann Burack-Weiss already pointed out one of my thoughts, that Thomas was a young alcoholic. He was a genius, but IMO he's dead (so to speak) wrong about this, even though he says it beautifully. By the way, that's a villanelle. Love this form, which is very tightly structured. Notice that the first and third lines of stanza one alternate as the third line in succeeding stanzas. The rhyme scheme is ABA. And, after five stanzas of three lines, the sixth stanza is four lines, with the two refrain lines ending the poem as a couplet. It's as much a puzzle as a poem.

A lovely man of God who passed over a few days ago told his friend, "...if I was around him at the time of death I should remind him to go toward the light. "

Some of us see death as not going toward the dark, but rather going toward the light.

I think I hear your dilemma. At some point, there will be an ending and that is as it should be, but we don't want to miss out on the possibility of that last bit of good.
I'm pretty much good to go, but my daughter wants to have at least one more child and my grandson just turned 15 and I'd like to see my son in a happier place and if I can see how all of that turns out I wouldn't want to miss it. If I can't I can't, and that will be all right, too. Sin qua fati sinant.

This is such a sad poem. There is no rage at the end of light. We could only wish. Just a acquiescence. A quiet surrender. It's humbling and deeply moving.

I love the resonance of that repeating line. BUT, that's it. I want to go gentle into that good night.

In recent years I've become a fan of Maria Callas. She's the top of the pops for me. She had somewhat of an unhappy life in her later years and her sentiment was "Thank God, its one day less (to life)". I can so relate to that! Done all that I wanted to do and now just wish to be gone.

A dear friend of mine was very much into politics. Towards the end, I switched on the news for her at her customary hour. But she just wasn't interested. The withdrawing and disassociation from life had begun. I now can so relate to this too!

I envy you the choice of exit. It is not possible yet where I live - pray God it will be soon.

Peace be with you always.

Ronni of course Thomas's poem is important because it is part of what you and we all struggle with at the end if years. It is hard to let go. You are remarkable because of your fierce attachments and comments about what is going on in your life. I like your rage and dezire to see things set right. I totally identify with this. And yet I think we can prepare ourselves at the right time to know when it is time to slip into another mode of awareness. And it is time to enter the transition from this life to whatever is next. Thanks as always for putting all these matters in front of us.

Hospice often ends up prolonging people's tolerably comfortable lives.

Just sayin'.

As Winnie-the-Pooh said, "Both, please, but never mind the bread." (The question was: "Would you like honey or condensed milk on your bread?")

More world! AND a gentle exit from it. Rooting for that.

Grace, thank you so much for that Whitman poem!! Didn't know it, now will keep it close for the rest of my days.

Ronni, you are further along than I on our path to the end of life. Fortunately, for me, Maine has recently passed the Right To Die law. When I was diagnosed for the third time with a different cancer and going through months of multiple tests, I experienced such exhaustion dealing with transportation, the wait for results of tests, and all along - the depression about our country's president (w/ a small "p") - one positive has been that I've been able to learn even more with regard to choosing the Right To Die. Knowing that if I decide to use that venue, I am prepared. It finally gives me a sense of peacefulness. I love the Whitman poem. It's so beautifully written. All of your readers have been so fortunate to have your thoughts and research information. Reading the comments and getting to know the contributors has been wonderful. We all will miss you when you are not here but will always treasure having had the pleasure of reading your blog. Thank you so very much for being you. Hugs & Luv

Late to this, but have to observe: Thomas seems furious with his father. I'm for gentle if that can be, which probably requires not hanging on to even legitimate rages.

I agree with Irma...I dread finding that you are no longer with us. Rest in peace knowing that you have brought light and knowledge and entertainment to many. I hope you are never in pain.

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