By Katherine Gotthardt Often now, I think about death, usually at 3 a.m. when I wake to the thin skin of all that separates us. They say that’s when the dead speak, spirits and the living reside in one world, and anyone you miss is a but a pinpoint’s distance to your fingertips. That’s when the sweating begins, the panic as I touch your chest, make sure you’re still breathing, like I did when the kids were infants. What would I do without you? Would I want to go on? What if…Stop that, I snap at myself. But instead, I hop to our daughter, freak about her health, or the dog who is older than us all. When I was young and angsty, death was a commodity, indeed I wished for it, deep in the veins of my own existence, unable to flex the power a beating heart lends. But now, age clinging damply to my pajamas, I hear irony giggle. It sounds a little like my mother who like her father, died too young, who like her brothers, passed before their children’s prime. And yes, I am afraid, not because of what throbs on the other side of 3 a.m. but because I’ve so much to do, and my plans teeter on the bet I won’t leave too soon, you will still be here, and anything else, I’ll just handle. But boy, how this night’s middle bothers me, the heartrace of neither here nor there, Schrödinger’s cat every morning, the voice of my mother-in-law, pragmatic from the spirit side: Go back to sleep, Katherine. Or at least get up and write poetry. Leave something lasting if you’re going to die, something to commemorate the mortal years. It’s actually time you fear.