Want to know the exact day the Grim Reaper’s going to come knocking at your door?
By Mary Beth Crain
Here’s a cheery little question for you: How would you like to find out the exact day you’re going to die?
Can such a thing really be predicted? And if so, do you really want to know the answer? Well, according to Ronald Bailey of “Reason Magazine,” thanks to advances in biotechnology, we’re getting closer to being able to pinpoint a human being’s death date. “Improved genetic testing,” he observes, “will tell more and more of us about our future health and likely ends.”
Even though actuarial tables and longevity calculators already exist to give us lifespan estimates, these calculations, Bailey says, are on an average, and can contain wide variances. “Future tests, including genetic tests, could narrow the range of your specific life expectancy… Genetic researchers are already investigating which sets of genes, called haplotypes, combine to increase a person's risk of various diseases…One can imagine in the not too distant future, say ten years, when a comprehensive panel of genetic tests will identify a variety of disease causing and health promoting haplotypes. You may test ‘positive’ for haplotypes that increase risk for kidney cancer and deep vein thrombosis and for others which reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease and diabetes. Analyzing such genetic information may put narrower limits on your life expectancy.”
Bailey also mentions the website Deathclock.com, where you can input some data about yourself and supposedly get the exact day of your death, along with the helpful report of how many seconds you’ve got left before the Grim Reaper comes to collect.
You might well ask, who the hell would want this creepy information? Well, Bailey for one. In a recent interview on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” he maintained that “knowledge is power,” and that if he found out the day he was going to die, he’d use that knowledge to make his life more meaningful. You know, put all that back burner stuff on the front burner, take all those trips he’s been putting off, write that novel. Of course, any of us can do that right now without knowing our precise departure date. It’s sort of living-in-the-moment common sense. I’ll bet there aren’t too many Buddhists checking in with Deathclock.com.
I have a big problem with these kinds of predictions. Number one, since they don’t take into account the unknowable, like accidental death, how can they possibly be accurate? Number two, can’t we alter the future by taking better care of ourselves? Number three, if somebody told you you were going to take the bus on September 4, 2020, might you not file that date away in your subconscious and become the victim of a self-fulfilling prophecy? Number four, what about future advances in medicine that could render today’s information obsolete? And number five, well, I may be old-fashioned, but somewhere deep inside of me I still believe that all of this is meddling in what should be God’s domain, not ours. When it comes to our day of departure, I suspect that He’s got the last call, not to mention the last laugh.
Anyway, if you read my articles Night of the Laughing Dead and A Tisket, a Tasket, is That End Table…A Casket?, you know I have an affinity for the macabre. So, from casketfurniture.com it was but a hop, skip, and a jump to Deathclock.com.
At the site, I was greeted by the image of a clock with a skull face, an eerie black-and-white photograph of an old graveyard, and the jolly greeting, “Welcome to the Death Clock, the internet’s friendly reminder that life is slipping away, second by second...”
I was then invited to view my Death Clock by entering the following information: Date of birth; sex; mode, i.e. normal optimistic, pessimistic or sadistic; smoker or non-smoker; and body mass index, i.e. the relationship of my height to my weight. That was all. No critically relevant questions like “Do you have diabetes, or heart disease, or cancer?” or “Do you do drugs?” or “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the stress in your life?”
Being a chicken, I didn’t have the nerve to put in my own data. So, I used my 86-year-old mother, Hazel, as the guinea pig. I thought this was even more amusing considering the fact that Hazel is convinced that she’s never going to die and that’s that. I entered her birth date, August 28, 1920. Sex: Female. Mode: well, Hazel is the world’s biggest complainer, so I entered “pessimistic.” She’s never smoked, and her BMI was 25—OK but not great.
Then it was time to click on “Check Your Death Clock.” I took a deep breath. Even though I knew the whole thing was ridiculous, there was still a little voice inside me whispering, “Do you really want to know when Hazel will die? Do you?”
Oh, why not? I clicked—and got the following message: “I’m sorry, but your time has expired. Have a nice day!”
Just to be sure, I went on to another morbid site, Deathdate.com, and entered the same information. Hazel’s death date was September 29, 2003. I then received the encouraging message: “Apparently Death has overslept. But don’t worry, it will come eventually…”
I couldn’t wait to tell my mom. The next day I went to visit her.
“Hazel, guess what? There’s this website called Deathclock.com, where you can find out the exact day you’re going to die.”
“Mary Beth, that’s awful!” she scolded. “Why would you want to know such a thing?”
“I don’t! But I wanted to know when you were going to croak. So I put in your information and guess what? It said your time has expired! In other words, you’re overdue!”
“How do you like that!” she laughed. “Do you suppose there’ll be a fine?”
“Sure! 50 cents for every day you hang around past your due date. You’ll have to pay it at the Pearly Gates or you won’t get in!”
“Well,” she said mischievously, “I plan to hang around awhile.”
“Long enough to keep making you miserable!”
Well, folks, that’s my mother. She’s got better things to do than die, bless her heart. And may that be so for all of us.
To calculate your last day on Earth, visit Deathclock.com.
Comment on this article here.
Senior editor Mary Beth Crain’s last piece for SoMA was Flash! Limbo No Longer in Limbo!
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