The Poignancy of Death

Slim Randles is here today with a somewhat sobering blog post about death. That isn’t a topic that most of us like to talk about, or read about, or even think about too much. But in my years of knowing some pretty amazing country folks, I’ve come to understand that they are somewhat more pragmatic about the cycle of life than some of the rest of us. Not that they aren’t sad or they don’t grieve, they just understand and accept that the cycle has three parts. We’re born. We live. We die.

Maybe they learn how to handle death because of the years of working farms and ranches and seeing that cycle repeat often in livestock, other farm animals, and even some people along the way.

Whatever the reason, there’s wisdom in the way they handle death, as illustrated in this story about Doc. And since he is raising a cup of coffee to honor his friend, maybe we can raise a cup to honor someone close to us who has reached that final part of the cycle of life.

Go ahead and grab a cup. I’ll keep the pot going.

It was strange, Doc thought. All these years. All these people. It still hurts.

Old Tom had died around midnight, and Doc didn’t get more than an hour’s sleep since then.

Just before he went, Tom reached out and gripped Doc’s hand and thanked him for everything. He was smiling when he went.

Somehow that made it worse for Doc than just having death bring a pleasant new start for someone in pain and agony. Doc hadn’t been able to patch him up this time. When someone Tom’s age has his organs shut down, there just isn’t much a doctor can do but make him comfortable and say goodbye.

The percolator finished, and Doc knew he should go get a cup and start the day, but something made him leave the coffee behind and walk into the back yard.

He would come out here later, too, he knew, and bring a cup of coffee with him. He wasn’t in the mood for gathering with the boys at the Mule Barn today. This would be a day where Doc, quietly and alone, would raise his coffee cup to Tom. And after 9:30, he’d be able to hear the little girls screaming happily on the playground at the school, three blocks away.

Yes, that’s the way to start this day, listening to the happiness of children and watching the life around him. And sipping coffee in the back yard.

Just Doc and Old Tom.
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Brought to you by Home Country (the book) available from

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Check out all of Slim’s award-winning books at, and in better bookstores and bunkhouses throughout the free world.

All of the posts here are from his syndicated column, Home Country that is read in hundreds of newspapers across the country. I am always happy to have him share his wit and wisdom here.

Slim Randles is a veteran newspaperman, hunting guide, cowboy and dog musher. He was a feature writer and columnist for The Anchorage Daily News for 10 years and guided hunters in the Alaska Range and the Talkeetna Mountains. A resident of New Mexico now for more than 30 years, Randles is the prize-winning author of a dozen books and is host of two podcasts and a television program. 

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