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Until death us do part

On 26 February I will turn 79, leaving me with but one year to achieve the average life span of the Australian male.

Given the assembly of the many different coloured tablets – each with its own purpose – that confront me morning and night, I’m confident of achieving this milestone.

It is surprising to me just how little interest people take in their death given they didn’t have any opportunity to do so in their birth.

These words are not meant to be pessimistic or morose, even humorous, but more to the point, they are simply about the process of death.

Truth be known people of my vintage ask themselves how many more times they will be called to vote. How many grand kid’s birthdays will I see, or grand finals, tennis opens, Melbourne Cups and others I have never missed? How many more articles for The AIMN?

We are not inclined to talk about death until we are face-to-face with it, and even then we try to push it away in the forlorn hope that it might be postponed.

Ask us to come up with stories about our birth and we will produce countless second-hand versions of family memories handed down.

Death is not the mystery it is made out to be. It is simply the reverse of the other mystery we call birth.

Death is a more remote thing. We allow it to hide from us until we have to talk to it.

Then when we are forced to ask questions about it in the quietness of self-reflection or with a friend, or relative, we find ourselves lacking any previous experience.

Can you remember your first experience of loss? When death first appeared in your life with any consequence. When your emotion stirred with an unexplained forfeiture. When you couldn’t marry death and loss together; what it looked like, what it was and how you should react to it.

Only when we face it with some experience of loss can we truly understand it. But the anxiety of it is something we carry with us all of our living days.

We never confront it until it becomes an immediate barrier to our living. Some older folk push it away, kidding themselves that it is a never-ending story.

People of faith have the promise of another and better life but not all are necessarily filled with conviction.

To be told that the life we are living is a forerunner or introduction to better one serves only to devalue the one we have.

In my own journey, I think about it a lot and try to put it into some sort of context that gives me an understanding of the why of it. But I struggle with my logic versus my emotion.

I guess I’m trying to understand the difference between the purpose of life and the reason for it.

I believe that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

After a lifetime of observation I have concluded that the purpose of life is about procreation and as to the reason for it, well, put simply, there doesn’t, when you think about it, need to be one.

Life has been to me a series of questions that after examination have an explanation or they don’t and are quickly replaced with another series. Such is the enormity of our experience.

I don’t want this “shock horror” thinking that usually comes with the sudden death of a loved one. The “why” of it often has no enlightenment.

The process is important to me and I want my family to understand my life, my family, its disappointments, its grace, its inner sanctum of love, its worth, its challenges and its termination. Although they have experienced much of it already.

If you are looking for the ultimate expression of the purity of love, there is no better place to look than in the sanctity of what we call motherhood.

Most families are ill-prepared for the death of a loved one because they don’t think or talk about it. Of course, the suddenness of one’s departure or illness or accident cannot prevent this, but generally speaking, we know where the destination of longevity is headed.

The manner in which people die are so variable that we have no way of pre-empting it but as we approach life’s conclusion we should give thought to those things that would better prepare your family for your death.

Forgiveness might play an important part of the process, as might the expression of love.

If you don’t explain your legacy, how you wish to be remembered, to your family then you don’t do your life, the living of it, any justice, you would have lived it in vain even devalued its importance.

Take the time to casually talk to your family about your death, how you wish to die and your after death desires for your funeral.

People of faith may want to reconcile with their maker or just put things right and this can be confusing for the non-believer who in my view should just let it go without judgement.

For sure, it might help them resolve the missing gaps they may have in their thoughts about you.

For some, death can be long-suffering or sudden and shocking. Not everyone ends up in palliative care a hospital bed or their own.

For me, the less fuss the better. I have had that conversation with my wife.

My thought for the day

A Death Certificate might show proof of death but the legacy you leave behind will demonstrate how you lived.

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9 comments

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  1. Josephus

    Dignified and sober. You live on in your descendants. I don’t have grandchildren, nephews or nieces so my death is more final. I did experience death in the plane crash of my only sibling at age 16.
    That procreation is the only immortality is true but modern medicine has enabled us to multiply way beyond the balance that allowed other animals and plants to thrive.
    A one child policy would have deferred the state of wars over water and food yet to come.

  2. Keitha Granville

    Good thoughts to ponder JL.

    My h and I have discussed, and notified our children of our wishes. I have to hope they will follow through. My first experience of death was my grandmother of whom I was inordinately fond. She was only in her 60s, my age now, and I was a young teen. It was shattering, and I felt the pain of her loss deeply. At the time I didn’t give a great deal of thought to my mother and her feelings, and when she died at the grand age of 96 I realised the enormity she had felt in losing her own mother.

    I believe children are better at understanding and processing death than we are in many ways and should not be shielded. Personally I dislike the term ‘ passed ‘ and would much prefer ‘ died ‘. As I am not a believer, we aren’t passing to anywhere, we are no more, and become dust.

    I try to follow the philosophy of living each day as if it’s the last, because we don’t know that it isn’t. The poem Desiderata is something to consider, it sums up a lot.

    I wish you more than 80 years, many more writings for AIMN and not too many more pills for your collection.

  3. wam

    hahaha, lord, wonder if you accept that you are already 21 years over your life expectancy and that is almost certainly due to luck and you bettabloc and amlo tablets.and a little asprim.
    Mystery of birth lord apart from pain and pushing?? Have you heard of haploids and diploids and, like me, do you struggle with DNA/RNA?
    Most families are ill-prepared for the death of a loved one because they don’t think or talk about it’. Where did this opinion come from? Some, many and most?? I don’t know any families, with pill taking oldies, who are unprepared or ill prepared?
    Good luck for next feb from another year of the snake!!!!

  4. David Stakes

    For one thing we cannot avoid it, its the manner of it which can be scary. And do we know when it happens, I think not. My 70th comes up the day before yours, I have no intention of giving up yet. Look forward to many more of your inspirational ramblings.

  5. Mr Shevill Mathers

    John, It is a subject that crosses my mind more often these days, I turned 82 on Jan 1st-as it is New Years day, I can never forget my birthday as I forget those of others. Still active with a healthy mind being let down by the bony support system, I push the envelope as far as I can with my many interests and zest for life. Have accomplished more than many, I have no regrets in passing, however, I will be the only person who does not know I have died. Best wishes to you for 2020 and beyond, a few more good years.

  6. Claudio Pompili

    Good thoughts and thank you JL. I’m 70 and am in a similar place. My joys (challenging but immeasurably rewarding) include being primary care-giver for both my parents over many years right to their deaths. My disappointments include the estrangement from a sibling and a son. I am an atheist and reflect daily on reconciliation and foregiveness, and actively expressing love, before I die.

    I’ve long followed the Truth and Reconciliation process and IMHO proceeds in three broad phases:
    – establish an agreed upon truth of the grievance;
    – the perpetrator of the offence must offer contrition to and ask for forgiveness from the aggrieved; and
    – the aggrieved has the option of proffering or witholding foregiveness.

    My many failed attempts over the decades have stalled at the first step of agreed-upon truth. Even with third-party facilitation that has proven to be insurmountable.

    Expression of love is a life-long series of coherent attitudes and actions, not simply words of love towards the end.

    Pier Paolo Pasolini once said, in paraphrase, that as one gets older, there is a huge weight of self-expectation lifted off one’s shoulders. Time is running out and with it the expectation of fixing everything. Instead, one has to resign oneself that there will sorrows and frustrations in being able to resolve interpersonal dramas. In accepting that truth, the beginnings of solace creep in.

  7. John Lord

    Thanks for these comments. Obviously my post wasn’t going to have a wide audience but those who have responded have done so with a large degree of excellent thinking.

  8. paul walter

    Claudio Pompii’ s comments resonate. The huge weight of expectations lifted, no more fear in case you slip up and spend the next thirty years in the gutter condemned by your loved ones and peers.

    It is as interesting to see where you’ve been and how you got there, as it is interesting to watch younger people, so grave and old, grappling with the sorts of decisions you had to make to get through to your mid sixties.

    You’d like to say “Don’t worry, in a few years it will all be different” but they would no more realise that than I did at that age. I don’t like some of the physical changes so far, but there has to be an exchange, peace for exuberance.

    As for significant others passing on, you don’t know true despair until that happens, it is a demarcation point. Yes, it eases and stuff can get soft and mellow, but not for a bit in some cases.

    Nor does remorse vanish, but after decades I am slowly learning the futility of beating my self up for making human mistakes made in difficult circumstances.

    All in all, it now can seem very processive in a way I could not possibly have grasped earlier since I had not undergone the process.
    Still it goes on, each day brings forth its own epiphanies including stumbles and that makes it worthwhile looking after and hanging round a bit longer.

    John Lord, have followed you since the Margo days, so have to wish the best of beaut birthdays, coming up.

    Enjoyed the other comments also.

  9. Matters Not

    Been dead! But not buried nor burned. Resurrection took about 100 hours. And it was out of my hands. Had no say in any of it – being ‘dead’ and all. Next time, I’d prefer to be driving this bus of life but I live in a State where others want to deprive me of that choice. But they won’t!

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