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Cheating Death

Would you pay $200,000 to have your dead body preserved in liquid nitrogen and hung upside down in a sleeping bag, until medicine advances far enough to cure the disease that killed you? Cryonics might promise you immortality or at least offer to add years onto your life at some point in the future. No guarantees, mind.

A growing number of people are buying into this hope of a physical resurrection. But why? How will these ex-dead fit into a world that has moved on or maybe has experienced a nuclear war? I would never want to live back in my home town again, not because I don’t love it but because we no longer fit together, so why on earth would I want to come back to life. Done that, the T shirts are in the charity shop.

With the world’s population expected to break the 8 billion barrier by 2030, this will put even more pressure on the planet to provide resources for a world already struggling to feed its people.  I have to question what lies behind this greed. After all, it’s pure luck that any of us have been given the gift of life in the first place.

Never one to believe in unnecessary end-of-life intervention at the expense of the quality of life,, I think it’s the responsibility of the death industry to talk more about what it means to let go of life as we know it and embrace the end with equanimity and gratitude.

Religion used to give us permission to leave this world anticipating some sort of life eternal providing we behaved according to divine law. Now we look to holding back the tide with cosmetic surgery, dietary fads which promise to add years to your life and super technology to promise a new physical life in maybe a hundred years’ time.  It’s nonsense. It’s a denial of death which to my mind is triggered by fear- of nothingness, non-existence, the grave, of being forgotten, for not having made the most of the opportunities, doing what we came here to do ( if we can ever work that out), for making mistakes, hurting people but most of all of not being able to turn back the clock or hold back the tide. As time marches on we feel powerless and out of control.  A sense of doom pervades our later years when we could be feeling joyous. We made it that far.

We plead with the doctors, mumble through a half-remembered prayer from childhood to quell the panic. It becomes all about us, me, unaware that over 100 billion human beings have trod this path before us and have returned to specks of stardust.  They’re just fine.

We fight the inevitable and in our anguish and exhaustion we fail to soak up the intensity of that moment – the lilac tree blossom outside our window, a fluttering red admiral butterfly, the squeeze of a loved one’s hand.

In his deeply moving book, Waiting For The Last Bus,  Richard Holloway reminds us that instead of there being sorrow for what death will take from us, we can choose to let it reveal the beauty of the world. https://amzn.to/2JFwA55

Those promoting Mindfulness are onto something.

We groan under the towering boulders of regret, knowing that one day we will be a distant memory handed down in the sketchy narrative to our descendants who might wonder for a moment or two about our life before returning greedily back to theirs.

Dylan Thomas said, ‘Do not go gentle into that good night….. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’

I don’t agree with this. There’s no point in fighting the inevitable. Death was always part of the plan.  A calm and gracious acceptance is what I hope for my final goodbye. I am mentally prepared and that gives meaning to everything I say and do.

If just one person remembers me for doing my best and will forgive me for straying from that, on the grounds that I’m human, then what more could I want?

Being able to die in peace, is knowing when enough is enough. That peace comes from being able to forgive yourself.

My new novel  Edna’s Death Café, Talking about death, celebrating life. Out Sept 2018   

https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/contemporary/ednas-death-cafe/

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