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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