I do not want to die. I do not want my cat to die, I do not want my friends to die. I particularly don't want my parents to die.

Nobody does, right? Like the fellow said in Sandman, "Death's a mug's game."

We get closer to death every day we draw breath. It's a fact of life: out with the old, in with the new.

When I was a child, I got to see the effects of aging on many, many elderly relatives. I got to see what years of too much smoke and too much drink does to a person, how it can lock you in a living hell of a slow-rotting corpse of a body for years after you have that crucial first stroke.

I've seen older friends and relatives get carved up like Death's Christmas goose on the surgeon's table as they lose organs and parts riddled with cancer.

But better your spleen or stomach than your mind, that most precious of organs that Death so loves to turn to swiss cheese so you will dance with palsy or cry out at the darkness and wet your bed like a baby. In your second childhood, Death is your true playmate, and It loves you like a cat loves a mouse.

Old age seems a degrading torment designed exclusively to break your body, mind and soul so that you will be glad to go gentle into that good night.

Every time I come home for Christmas, I see my parents' personalities being stripped down, layer by layer, by old age. I fear there will be hardly anything left of them by the time they've left these golden years. Run for the shadows, Mom. Run for the shadows and maybe It won't find you here.

I'd feel better about all of this if I could know there was an afterlife. I believe in something approximating a God, sure. But my god is not a warm and fuzzy, hands-on, personal-relationship-with-Jesus kind of God. I can't buy that a guy like Him would really let all the horrible things that go on every day in this world happen if He existed. Even if He does work in mysterious ways, even if He does weep in Heaven at the sight of the babies left to die in dumpsters, He just doesn't pass muster with Occam's Razor.

My god is a cellular clockwork god, a force to make atoms want to become molecules, molecules want to become crystals, children want to become astronauts and presidents and famous authors. My god is the ambition ingrained in every atom and every cell and every human brain that makes us want to become more and better than what we are. And our eternal foe is not Satan: it's entropy.

And isn't Death the ultimate entropy?

Oh, sure, it's completing the circle of life in that lovely, clean Darwin/Disney sense. But the human experience should be more than just a part of the carbon/water cycle. We amass so much experience and so many ideas and dreams, I am terrified by the thought that all that just goes down the cosmic shithole when we die.

But my fear, in my absence of heavenly faith, is that's exactly what happens. Out like a light, good night. Game over, nothing saved, nothing preserved unless you got some of it down on paper or electrons before your mind becomes death's wet toy.

All that effort, all that living, ultimately wasted.

It can't really be like that, can it? Even my clockwork god wouldn't let that kind of thing happen, would it?

But I've received no sign. No new data to give me faith.

So I write.

I write for other reasons, sure: as an attempt to clarify my own thoughts, for personal amusement, for money, from boredom, rage, lust, joy, sadness, indignation, awe, obsession, all that and more. But at the core of it all, my writing is my own itty-bitty insurance policy against losing everything when my candle finally blows out and I can work and think and laugh no more.