An alternative take on the Ars Moriendi

An alternative take on the Ars Moriendi

A poem by Tom Vaughan

Ars Moriendi

As you grow older, don’t forget
to swot up deathbed etiquette

first of all, leaving a will
makes loss a less divisive ill

(descendants generally fall out
if an estate is left in doubt –

yours may do anyway of course
and you for your unfairness curse

so make sure all who matter get
enough to head off such a threat)

next, if religiously inclined,
appear assured, resolved, resigned

to bear with grace the human lot
however seemingly crackpot

since if your life’s been an endeavour
to flaunt your faith, it’s now or never

then binge on Schubert, but if inclined
to modern music, bear in mind

death’s a fashion statement – Bowie’s
bleak Blackstar might be what yours is

number four, why not make peace
with those you’ve fooled enough to fleece

plus all you’ve hurt or long ignored
that they may praise you evermore

fifthly, plan your funeral
so those who’ll be there shall recall

the good taste which (they’ll long relate)
your chosen readings illustrate

lastly, please do not complain
however harrowing the pain

but bear it stoically, while hinting
at the bravery you’re demonstrating

the point being, a stiff upper lip
is a must for your concluding trip

Tom Vaughan

The original Ars Moriendi – dating back to the late Middle Age – was a handbook for the dying.  It provided practical and spiritual guidance to the dying and to those who cared for them.

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