Death is a fate that awaits us all.
I parrot that, as others who have now gone have done before, I don't
mean it in a offensive way but as a fact, a cool, calm, collected
one, and regardless of how it comes. New life enters the world every
day as other fatigued or barely spent lives depart; and yet, joy is
only accorded to the former even if the extinguished life in the
latter has been long or extended beyond all reasonable expectations.
It's the length, as in years or age reached, that seems to matter,
rather than gained experience, intellect, or wisdom which can often
mature faster than considered age-appropriate.
yet in nature, meaning animal rather than human though we are all
part of the same kingdom, death at any age is accepted - to talk
about, to plot and even hasten for our own ends, as in conservation
or food. It's seen as the natural order of things: a circle of life
as Elton John so lyrically put it, in spite of us sometimes having
more than a hand in the closing of that circle. We shoot, we slit
throats, we stun, though the murderers amongst us do apply that to
fellow humans too, so not all of us are averse to taking life, any
is that we see our life cycle as different, as somehow being more
are we less comfortable with anything that threatens it? Why are we
less comfortable with loss?
is too easy an answer in regards to Man versus Creature, though of
course that old prehistoric mindset is still there, because in Old
England in times where disease was rife and living was more
unsanitary, death was faced. Head-on. It didn't make the occasion
any less sorrowful, but I think with hindsight you could say people
then were more pragmatic; they had to be. But since then we seem to
have travelled, and a fair old way too, in the opposite direction; as
our living conditions have improved we've run from Death as if it
were a deadly (pardon the pun) enemy and not a constant companion. A
pitch-black tunnel that looms ever ahead until suddenly its entrance
yawns closer before you're ready.
wants to contemplate their own demise; nobody's ever ready, but Death
happens. It has to, nothing would grow if Death didn't occur. And so,
why not be more open to it and about it. We talk about the birds and
bees so much more candidly than we used to, and yes, some of us still
blush and would prefer it if talk (and images) weren't quite so
crude, but at least the act, in itself, is no longer something to be
ashamed of or hidden, whereas our attitudes to thinking and talking
about Death are more guilt-ridden.
is part of life, however, wherever it appears, and while you can't
plan for it, definitively, you can have an rough idea of what
you'd like to happen during or after. Birth's not entirely left to
chance, why should Death be?
loved ones in their grief have no choice but to make those decisions
for you? Because loss, the thought of and the actual feeling of, hits
all of us in different ways, and there's nothing worse than being
left with remorse that you might not have done things right, as the
deceased might have liked or wanted; that the departure from this
life didn't 'go off' quite as planned, unless of course you can
picture the hilarity this farce would have brought to the deceased.
then there's the school of thought that thinks: why would they (the
deceased) care anyway? Once you're gone, you're gone. And so really
the final ending or resting place doesn't matter. But deciding
ourselves as in making our wishes known lessens the burden on those
still living, and surely if we have the freedom (and the capability)
to choose we should choose. Isn't that the difference between us and
the creatures we exploit - primarily that we get to have a say in how
our remains are ceremonially despatched?
Picture Credit: The Balcony, 1950, Rene Magritte