The shot hits me just below the chest, shattering some important organ. A lung, maybe, or an intestine. My left hand goes there. I feel the wetness through my fingers and fall to my knees—my death pose. My eyes are open (they should probably be closed, but no way am I going out like that), as is my mouth. My face holds a look of shock that says This can’t be happening, and I think that even as I drop to the grass. I’m still. I don’t even move when the grass pokes into my mouth and tickles my gums.
A skinny shadow falls over me then, and a loud voice says, “Cut.”
I raise my head. “Good?”
My daughter stands there, one hand on her hip and the other holding the camera. “That wasn’t very good, Daddy.”
My son stands next to her. He’s holding the water pistol at his hip in much the same fashion as he imagines Doc Holiday once did. “Nope,” he says. “That weren’t too good a’tall.”
“I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong,” I tell them. “I grab my shirt like you said, I tumble over like you said, I lie there like you said. You want me to close my eyes?”
I don’t want to, but at this point I’ll do whatever it takes to have this over with. We’ve been out here in the yard for two hours. Making a movie, my daughter says. This week, that’s what she wants to do when she grows up. I said fine, let’s make a movie. I figured it couldn’t be worse than last week, back when she wanted to be a veterinarian. I don’t even want to talk about that.
My son was more than willing to participate, especially when my daughter informed him of the plot: Bad guy captures the princess, good guy shows up to rescue her, bad guy gets it in the end. It’s all gone smoothly until this last scene. The final showdown isn’t going well. The dialogue is crisp, the action top-notch. That’s not the problem.
The problem is me. I’m not dying right.
That’s what they keep saying. “You ain’t dyin’ right, Daddy” from her and “The way you’re doin’ it’s the sucks” from him. He says if this keeps up the camera batteries are gonna die, and they’ll do a better job of it than I am.
“I don’t understand what you want me to do,” I say. “I’m telling you, this is how people die. I watch a lot of TV.”
“It ain’t right,” my son says.
My daughter nods. “I don’t know how they do it on the TV, Daddy, but that ain’t how you die.” She turns to her brother and says, “C’mon, let’s go see if we can figure out something else.”
So I lie there in the grass while my children conduct and impromptu director’s meeting, which most likely revolves around what sort of sandwich they want for lunch and how hard it is to find quality actors these days. Me, I’m just thinking about how to die right. It’s a heavy subject. And like most heavy subjects, pondering it brings all sorts of thoughts to mind.
Because that’s what we’re all doing, right? We’re dying. We don’t like to talk about existence in that term. We say we’re growing, maturing. Living. But an argument could be made that our first peek at this world—that first cry when we emerge from the womb—is the only moment we are truly alive. All the moments that come after are spent in the shadow of death.
And I wonder: Is that why I can’t nail this last scene in my daughter’s first movie? Is that my problem? Have I gotten life all turned around, thinking the things I need to do and say don’t need to be done today because there’s always tomorrow? How much time have I wasted waiting for God to act, and all this while He’s been waiting for me, telling me to embrace my days, to ravish them?
How much time have I wasted trying to figure out how to live right instead of how to die right?
“Hey,” I say. “Let’s do this again.”
My daughter says no, there’s been a change of plan. My son’s going to be the bad guy now. He thinks he can do a better job.
“No,” I say. “One more try.”
He smiles and attacks, I laugh and defend. We brawl and battle and wail. Each squirt of our water guns brings joyful laughter. Finally, I lunge into the nearest bush, clutching my mortal wounds, and then collapse with a flourish into the arms of heaven. I embrace that scene. Ravish it.
My daughter yells, “Cut! Wrap!”
It was a glorious death.