This excerpt originally appeared in the AVS Journal, Vol. 9, #1 (Summer 2010) courtesy Nicky Van Valkenburgh, author of “Transform Your Brain, Transform Your Life”.
Then I remembered the words of one of my favorites songs Jesse Colin Young and by back when I was a hippie. I remember listening to it on my stereo while tripping on acid and I told my friend Bruiser, “That’s the song I’m gonna be hearing when my time comes.” And as I felt myself slipping off the slanted boulder into the icy water, inch by inch, I heard the song singing in my head: Darkness darkness, be my pillow, take my hand and let me sleep in the coolness of your shadow, In the silence of your deep.”
Each inch brought me closer to death. I tried to grab the boulder with my fingers but I couldn’t move my fingers at all. As I slid into the icy water up to my waist I slowly began to feel the effects of hypothermia. A sense of drowsiness began to come over me. Of all the thoughts that were sweeping over me my main thoughts kept returning to you, Galen. How much I loved you, how could I be sure that you would be raised by your abusive mother with love and with her teaching you by example the importance of honesty when she had none, and control of your temper when she herself could not? I could only hoped that she could find an honest and decent man to be your stepfather. Now I found myself drifting off to sleep more and more as the hypothermia took me deeper and deeper.
Slowly I felt myself slipping farther and farther of the boulder into the rushing waters swollen by the early spring snow melt rushing down from over 12 thousand feet. By now I had slid into the rushing waters until I was up to my chin, and I became deeply drowsy, laughing to myself about the irony of the whole situation. I thought, “I guess it’s the best way to go,” because I just had a few seconds to make the transition from life to death, dying unconscious from the cold, and I knew I would soon be going into hypothermia — which I knew was the best way to die, totally painless because you were unconscious. If you could die from going into true unconscious hypothermia, and dying from the effects of hypothermia on your body, rather than the nasty death of drowning—if it went right and you died asleep, instead of being still awake, in which case I would still be conscious and running out of air and having to breathe out all my oxygen-depleted air and choke by breathing water into both lungs and choking to death. I didn’t want to think about it.
I had never believed I would die so young, and with so little accomplished—a few measly books, but of course it was all worthwhile because I knew I had brought Galen into the world, carrying 50% of my chromosomes into the future. Jeez, I thought, this would be a kick-ass thing to write about! Then I remembered, dead don’t write.
As the water reached over my chin I could feel by my increasing drowsiness that terminal hypothermia was setting in. I was growing very drowsy now and the only thing I was aware of was a vague sense of anticipation. What next? At one point a short piece of a song from a movie I had seen with my family when I was a tiny kid came into my mind — an old Alfred Hitchcock movie starring Doris Day (one of my childhood sex queens) in which she sang “Que Sera Sera,” which meant “Whatever Will Be, Will Be, (The Future’s Not Ours to See).” I hadn’t thought of that song for probably 30 years. But it really summed things up for me at that moment. I had no idea where it came from– just another meaningless human thought bubbling up and passing.