When I am dying do not read to me books of heaven and the people who have visited there. I don’t want to hear their same-song tales of being blinded by the light or lulled into a peace beyond any which they have ever known before.
Read to me instead the stories from Flannery. Tell me of strange men and strong women. “If you think I need spiritual aid to die you’re quite mistaken.”
Do not attempt to entertain me with the mundane yarns of people who did not know how to live a good story until they reportedly died and rose again. If heaven is anything it ought to be a place where storytellers gather to share the dramas of a life well-lived.
Do not read to me of streets of gold and angelic choirs who know no other chorus besides the Hallelujah one. Tell me of Mahalia Jackson busting out “C’mon, go to my house.”
Everybody going to die with a bad heart. You ain’t going to die till your heart stops beating.
When I am dying do not bring me the unleavened bread and the watered down grape juice. Feed to me country ham and fat green beans simmered all day long on the back burner. Share with me a bottle of the finest wine.
And for gosh sakes, please do not be quiet when you enter my dying room. It is true what Truvvy said: Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion. So please, laugh and weep all you want. Perhaps you will distract me from the boredom of dying.
If between now and then, someone writes about a near-death encounter with hell and the Devil himself, read to me of that book.That is the story that Flannery might write.
All those others writing of their near-death experiences?
“You’ve got to face the facts; He can’t write so he gets sick. He’s going to be an invalid instead of an artist. Do you know what he needs? Two or three shock treatments. Get that artist business out of his head once and for all.”