"You counterintuitive bastard, why for?"
"See it coming. Have time to set things, get to fight it, know when I get to go rather than dying without realizing it.
I wanna be able to see it coming. None of that quick and sudden shit or in my sleep."
"... I think you and I would fence atop a speeding car weaving through giraffes playing the banjo
while somebody dropped fireworks on us from a biplane."
"Glue my hands to my head, and tie a loop of cheese wire around my neck,
with the other end anchored to the roof of
a building. then jump, so it
looks like I yanked my head off."
"Death by snoo-snoo."
"In my sleep, during an excellent dream."
It's a hard question to answer. Honestly, at least. I think everyone's got a facetious answer to it. But I've always believed that however you answer it, it says something about you. What's important to you. What you fear, what you love. Whether you value control over your circumstances, or whether you're happy being subject to the cruel whims of fate and all the rest of it.
So what about me? Well, I'm still holding out for a BDSM mishap at the age of 90, while in bed with two 18 year-olds. Of course, that's not a serious answer. But it's not something I much like thinking about. I worry too much about my own mortality, I think. As to why that might be, well, as with anything else there's a whole tangled mess of reasons. I remember when I was a kid, being in and out of hospital. Nothing serious; childhood epilepsy. But still enough to freak someone out at that age, whether by temporarily shutting down the London-Brighton train line by having an (apparently somewhat dramatic) seizure mid-journey, or by being stuck into an MRI (I still have the pictures in a desk drawer).
I suppose that makes me rather self-absorbed. There were kids that same age at those same hospitals with far worse things wrong with them. My having a bout of panic about something that would eventually clear itself up with no treatment required, and nothing worse than a handful of absence seizures, made me into something like a tourist. Combine that with a touch of OCD and you have a recipe for a lot of panic attacks later on.
There's an old joke. A guy's worried about his health, so he goes to the doctor for some tests. And after a while, the doctor comes back and says, "Well, sir, I have your test results back, and I'm afraid I have to tell you that you're a hypochondriac."
And your man says, "Oh no, not that as well."
Hypochondria's no fun. In the right (wrong?) frame of mind, every little ache or pain or slight discomfort is a clear and present indication of impending doom. After a while it stops being about the fear of death so much as the fear of pain, illness. It's not really something you can help, but I know I still feel guilty for it. Chalk that one up to good old-fashioned Catholicism. There's another essay in there, about the role of martyrdom and suffering in Catholic religious art, but for now suffice it to say that it boils down to 'You think you've got problems? This guy here died in agony for all that stuff you did wrong!'.
There are ways round it. Sometimes I need to take myself outside, smoke a cigarette and batter myself over the head with perspective until I can tell myself I'm most likely OK for the moment. And some days are better than others. But the whole line of thinking is complicated and messy and often highly stupid. That's without even bringing sex into it. It's a whole parcel of shame and guilt and fear and unresolved issues. For the past couple of weeks or so, I've been engaged in convincing myself that a passing one-night stand hasn't actually lead to me risking a case of the Yipps or whatever. The prospect of being seriously ill, STI or not, terrifies me, and believe me when I say that I mean terror, in an absolutely literal, can't-stop-shaking, cold-sweat, primal fear sense.
So that's my five-paragraph answer, and it's less about how I want to die than the myriad ways in which I desperately want not to. Which is no way to get by. You can't spend all your time being terrified of the worst-case scenario, it's a tyranny of the worst order. If nothing else, sheer exhaustion tends to prevent it from dragging out too long. After a while you (or I, at least) sort of kick yourself into being a bit more sanguine. If you're at the stage where you can sit and watch the sun go down with a drink in your hand and really appreciate it, then some things aren't so bad.
It's still an enlightening question to ask. But of all the people I've known, I can only think of one whose answer doesn't leave me any conclusions to draw. It occurred to me that the way it's phrased implies eagerness, or complicity. 'How you want to die'. There aren't a lot of people who actively want that, I think. She did. And she chose not to give herself the time to reconsider. And when I think about that, the only thing I can think of is that I wish I'd known. So maybe her answer was 'someone who didn't want saving'.