"Be Near Me When I Fade Away"*

The Romans would have carved into their gravestones:

non fui, fui, non sum, non curo--

“I was not, I was, I am not,

I don’t care.”

I might not care then, but Seneca had

a good point--it is sweet to be so dear to another

that you become dearer to yourself. But

Seneca was a stoic, and as such

disapproved of passion

and falling in love. Furthermore

I should not lead you to think that this meditation

is unselfish.

If death is like a long sleep,

or at least begins with a dream--which I think

it might because of the chemicals

in our brains--then I hope

when I die, my long dream is

of warm days spent

with no one but you. Not a nightmare,

one of the few where there is

no escape and you don’t

come to save me. Because when

I sleep, I can wake, and tell you

about the nightmare to make it better.

But if I die

and my dream is a nightmare

without you,

and nothingness after,

how will I tell you?

The end of my life

and beginning of my nonexistence

will be terror alone.

That is my current concept of hell.

Because I don’t believe

in transcendental afterlife,

I will until my death

tell you about every inane thing.

  *title from Tennyson's "In Memoriam"

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