The cardiologist had described my cholesterol-caked arteries as being like a "ticking time bomb." Heart attack or stroke could have occurred at any moment, he claimed, his words prompting mental images of a cackling Death wiring sticks of dynamite together; his skeletal hands carefully setting the hands of some clockwork mechanism to detonate at the chime of midnight; then supernaturally strapping this device around my poor heart when I was unaware. Fortunately some angelic soul alerted the Earthly bomb disposal squad to my plight before Death could complete his fiendish plan.
Such idle thoughts, naturally, conjure further flights of morbid fantasy: did my astral self play its proverbial game of chess with Death, for example, while my physical body lay anesthetized upon the operating table? Probably not, as it happens, because I simply can't imagine myself speaking gobbledygook like "Rook to King's Bishop five," even in the supernatural realm.
Combined with a little paranoia, these daydreams continue through recovery: after all, successfully dodging Death's scythe on the first stroke doesn't mean it won't suddenly return later and cut you down on his back-swing. Perhaps Death is a golfer rather than a chess player, pitching and putting his way around the hospital: the heart disease hole is probably a par 4, and fortunately I got lost somewhere in the rough.
In reality, of course, since bypass surgery is virtually a routine procedure these days, there was only an incalculably small chance that the patient might die; only the remotest possibility that a cloaked and hooded figure might be lurking in the shadows of the operating room, hoping that someone will flatline sooner or later. Death must have much better ways to spend his time, however measureless and infinite his time is. Which means the operation must be pretty boring for Guardian Angels too, sent to merely keep an eye on things. 'Bring a book,' they are probably told. 'You can read by the light of your own beneficence.'
Ah yes, I can joke now but truth be told I was worried then. I suppose this is what is meant by the phrase "having the last laugh."