No one can confidently say that they will still be living tomorrow – Euripides
Over the past few days my Mum has repeatedly dropped hints about me visiting my Nan while she recovers in hospital. Today my excuses started to wear a little thin and so I cancelled my very important appointment to visit my dying Nan. You may feel that I am being a little melodramatic when I use the word dying, after all she survived her heart attack, but I sense that her time on this earth is sparse as I did when my Granddad died.
I didn’t want to go like this; I wanted to go in my sleep – My Nan
When I walked into her hospital room she looked like she would break if I kissed her too hard. She was immobile, out of breath and grey. I gave her a great big hug, and when I kissed her, my lips felt the heat of her blood as it struggled to find it’s way around her frail frame. This made me feel good and I patted her on the head in a strange approving way…well done blood. I asked her how she was feeling, “not great,” she said. These are the same words she greets me with each time I see her. I knew for the next 60-minutes we were going to complain about life with a bit of poor quality hospital food thrown in for good measure. But I didn’t want to complain about life, I wanted to talk to her about death.
Death never takes the wise man by surprise. He is always ready to go – John da la Fontaine
We spent the next 60-minutes talking about how spicy the hospital food was, how lovely the people were, how she would not move into an old peoples home and how gorgeous the young doctor was! The subject of death was never raised because it is a taboo subject…but why? Death is one of the most natural occurrences for any human being. As Susan Cheever said…
Death is terrifying because it is so ordinary. It happens all the time
In my western world, we are raised to believe that it is impolite – even wrong – to talk about death. I assume my Nan has given death a lot of thought since the loss of her husband. Thought that must have increased as she lay in her hospital bed watching a cat chasing a mouse while three children walked passed her window (she is on the 2nd floor!). I assume she is scared to death about death. Or maybe she is at peace with it and is just quietly waiting for it to take her away. I don’t know what she is thinking about because I never asked, but on my journey back I decided that the next time I see her I am going to talk to her about it. Let’s just hope that death keeps his mitts off her until then.
While I thought I was learning to live, I have been learning to die – Leonardo da Vinci
There is an excellent chapter about preparing for death in Embracing Uncertainty by Susan Jeffers. There is also a great exercise taken from that book that I wrote about when I penned The Thinking Journal. It is the I Have Had exercise and it helps you to appreciate all of your experiences while you are alive. If you complete this exercise every day and also create and complete a Bucket List. Then by the time the scythe scrapes across your door, you will be ready to move into the next phase of your life – at peace and not at war. You should also make arrangements for your death, because funnily enough when you are dead you will have difficulty holding a pen and few people will hear your voice. I will write about that in my next blog post.
What are your thoughts about holding conversations about death?
I sometimes get flummoxed when people say they struggle to find the inspiration to find anything to write about. If you cannot find something to write about then your life is pretty strange. So if you want to find inspiration for writing blog posts then just pay attention to your life and your story will present itself.
Photos: My Nan and I at Xmas 2011 and My Nan, Granddad and my son Jude years ago.