The Poetic Death of Visionary James Broughton

Joel Singer’s account of his beloved husband James Broughton’s death is one of the most moving and awe-inspiring we know.

Joel says his passing was made easier by the years James had spent writing about it, still no one could have known how “breathtaking” in the figurative and literal sense it would be.

Some of James Broughton’s poems allude to it though. He penned many poems about death, old age, and the anticipation of his own “impending demise,” as he called it. The section entitled “On the Way to the Exit” in his Packing Up for Paradise book is rife with them.

He writes,


Will the final gasp be a breathtaking event?
I’ve grown so accustomed to perpendicularity
I don’t look forward to relinquishing the habit.
And who will drop in on the deathbed scene:
old cold Saturn with a castrating scythe
or a hot young angel with a trick up his wing?

Dead serious mentors with grave arguments
have tried to convert me to orthodox misery.
But despite many sobering years of despair
I’ve always been as happy as a lark in his cups.
So I’ll shout shout shout the heresy of merriment
till I run out of breath at the finish line.

The details of James’ poetic ending have always inspired us. They didn’t make the final cut of our BIG JOY film, but we’ve been so personally moved by them that we used them to make a short video about it.

“It’s the kind of story that reshaped the way I thought about my own death scene,” said associate producer Aimée Cartier. “Of course none of us knows how we will go out, but if I’m waiting for it bedside like James was, I’ll do my best to make it magical and profound for us all.”

It sounds kind of weird doesn’t it!? But watch this video and you’ll see what we mean. It’s the kind of death that can inspire you to plot your own, even if you’re hoping it’s still another 50 years out!

And the hereafter for James?

Well we don’t know. But James Broughton did leave us this clue:


If reincarnation gives me a choice
I shall come back as a wind–
as a freelance breeze on the go
wherever my gusto takes me.

To be an invisible meddler
on errands of airy caprice–
to dance roughshod on the ocean,
wrestle a forest or a wheat field,
whistle under doors and garments,
life eagles aloft in my arms–
What livelier sport could there be?

When I come back as a wind
I will blow down the barriers of shame
and kiss every mouth I desire.

Mwah! From all of us at the Big Joy Project!

For more about James Broughton’s views on death check out our BIG JOY THEME Page.

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