As part of my job, I hear stories on a weekly and sometimes daily basis about the many, many gruesome and mundane ways that you can die. Because of confidentiality rules, I can't be too specific but here are the top ten ways to become brain dead:
1. You are an electrician/roofer/window washer and frequently climb ladders as part of your job. One day, you slip/lose your balance/are stung by a bee and fall in slow motion to the concrete driveway in front of your five year old daughter (who probably later grows up and becomes a drug addict. See #4).
2. You wake up one day with the worst headache of your life. You complain about it. You take 3 Advil and lie down in the bedroom. Later, a loved one finds you unresponsive with foam on your lips. You are rushed to the emergency room where a CAT scan reveals that you have a blood clot/tumor/hemorrhage in your brain. You should've gone to the hospital right away. They might have been able to save you then.
3. You're a teenage boy and you've been out drinking Pabst with your friends on a Friday night. It's 3 AM, way past your curfew and it's raining. You drive you and your four unrestrained passengers (including the girl you have a crush on) into a telephone pole/embankment/Mac truck.
4. Life has not been easy. You've always been a troubled soul or maybe not; maybe you've always been a good kid, on the honor role in a private Catholic school. In any case, you (either through frequent use or on a whim because you've been doing shots of tequila) decide to shoot up with this really good shit your friend's friend Adam just brought in from New York. You O.D. and at your funeral, everyone says what a great kid you were, so nice to everyone you met.
5. You are a black kid living in Northeast Philadelphia. You will be shot point blank in the face with no exit wound.
6. It's Saturday and you and your family are spending it at the shore with the rest of the Jerseyites. You're hot and tell your spouse that you're going to go in the water for a minute. You wade out into the ocean until you're feet are just barely touching the sandy ground. You take a deep breath, dive into the cold water, have a seizure, inhale tons of water into your lungs, and drown.
7. For years, your family has worried about you because you just can't seem to get it together. You haven't formally been diagnosed with clinical depression or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia or maybe you have been labeled but you're not taking your meds. You are hounded by what Franklin Delano Roosevelt called "the black dog" of depression. You find a jump rope/bottle of tranquilizers/shotgun/paring knife/skyscraper and say sayonara to this cruel world. You are discovered by one of your family members who (like little girl in #1) will never lose the image of your lost and lifeless body).
8. Freak accident. You eat a bunch of roasted apple seeds at a sporting event not realizing that in high concentrations they act like cyanide to your system. You throw a rock at a tree and it bounces off and hits you in the forehead. You step out to get the mail in your socks and are struck by lightning. You slip on that bar of soap you've dropped in the shower approximately 768 times before this and smash your head on the tile. It is senseless, and, for years afterwards, people like to tell the story of your death at cocktail parties.
9. Just don't mess with anything electric. Especially if you're standing in water.
10. You are a pedestrian talking on your cell phone as you cross the street. Or you are a cyclist who doesn't want to mess up her hair by wearing a helmet. Or you are on your new lime green Vespa, thinking of other things. And a Greyhound bus flattens you before you even have a chance to change your course.
The lesson: We will all die, but some ways are worse than others and I vote for heart attack at the age of 80, please.