I Want To Die Dancing

When my time comes Lord, I want to die dancing.

I want to be gaily and energetically whirling

and turning and waltzing around the ballroom floor.

Maybe I’d like it to be during a contra dance,

because all contras are suitably vigorous;

There are so many feisty embellishments

one can add into a happy contra dance.

While swinging my partner would be best.

***

But it would be just as acceptable to me, Lord,

if I should be taken during a square,

so long as I wasn’t just standing there

in fourth-couple position,

waiting my turn to become active again,

because I want to be dancing when I go.

***

I’d be perfectly happy to be doing

an English country dance or, even better,

a stately dance of the English court

because those dances are so elegant;

I’d feel I was bowing out with class.

Everything worth doing should be done with

at least a little class.

***

Feel free, Lord, to zap me doing an Appalachian

big set or, even better, a running set.

I think it would be neat

to cash in my chips while doing those

long half-running steps that make you feel so free

in the Appalachian running sets.

That would be a fine way to go,

to move on to the ultimate freedom.

***

But Lord, have mercy and compassion,

and don’t make me leave here

helpless in a nursing home bed

or languishing through painful hopeless

weeks months years of a slow disabling dying.

No, Lord, I’d like to die quickly while dancing.

***

Even if I can’t have my druthers in the matter,

and if I have any instinct at all

which tells me that the end is imminent,

then Lord I swear to you and everyone else

that I shall rise up from whatever condition

I may happen to find myself in

and I shall then dance!

***

Ideally I’d like it to be during a waltz,

because I have always loved the waltzes best.

The music of waltzes somehow comes so naturally to me,

so easy to dance, so easy to create new waltz melodies;

I can pour my love into the writing of a beautiful waltz.

And Lord, since one cannot very well waltz alone,

I hope there is a woman in my arms, waltzing with me,

a woman who is very beautiful of spirit,

a woman who I love very much.

***

Poor thing, she’ll be so upset when

the old ticker quits and I collapse from her arms.

But I hope she and all the other dancers

recover enough to recognize that I’d want them

to haul me out and go right back to dancing,

to make it a little tribute to me;

To celebrate on my behalf that which I loved so much.

***

If I could know they’d do that, Lord,

I’ll bet you I’d go smiling;

Because that’s the way to go, Lord.

Because dancing is, for me at least,

the ultimate celebration of life;

And dying is the final act of a lifetime of living.

***

It is my way, Lord, to celebrate the gift of life

with folk dancing, the dances of the folk, your children;

And with the music that goes with the dancing.

Oh yes, the music, my beloved music,

Your ultimate mysterious Gift to the spirit’s ear.

***

Grant me this wish, Lord,

when my time comes let there be music

And dancers, lots of happy happy dancers.

Because I have loved your children the dancers;

And because I am, over and above everything else,

a poet and a musician and a dancer.

And I want to die dancing.

 

 

Don Coffey

October 1988

 

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