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March 19, 2020

from “Last Words,” by Douglas Cole

JD Mason on unsplash.com

“When my grandfather was dying in the hospital, his body almost done with, he struggled mostly to breathe. He had been good and strong his whole life, never went into the hospital that I knew. Then something happened with his stomach. I was never sure what. He vomited and aspirated some of the vomit and developed a lung infection and that was it. Another doctor said it was emphysema. What difference does the name make at that point? I went to see him in the hospital, the last time I would ever see him, and like in a movie, when he saw me he took hold of my wrist and through his oxygen mask said, ‘Think good thoughts!’ . . .

“I’ve been mumbling it for years. Think good thoughts. As simple as pipe smoke. Think good thoughts. As beautiful and graceful as his garden. Think good thoughts — in the forest when there’s nobody to hear, as enigmatic as his life, his character, but elegant and clear as well — think good thoughts. It’s almost a kind of Zen koan. A pragmatic American pioneer law: think good thoughts. That’s all I know. And so I think, okay, I’ll try to think good thoughts.”

—Douglas Cole, “Last Words,” Still Point Arts Quarterly Spring 2020

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