The author has reason to believe (which is to say, he probably read it in the New Yorker once) that it’s a not uncommon practice among certain Buddhist monks for them (i.e. these same monks) to spend hours meditating upon the reality of their own future deaths — with a view, one supposes, towards demystifying same.
A much less common, but entirely similar, practice is to meditate on the death of young Brooklyn outfielder Al Thake, who drowned less than a month before his 23rd birthday while fishing in New York Harbor in 1872.
His obituaries, presented below, appear to be the oldest extant ones among professional base-ballists.
For example, from the Brooklyn Eagle (September 2nd, 1872):
And the New York Times (September 2nd, 1872):
And the New York Post (September 2nd, 1872):
And the New York Times, again (September 6th, 1872):
Obituaries collected by site The Deadball Era.