One day you will die, accept this fact and live
I have felt a little odd lately, emotionally silly, full of self pity. I guess the word I would use is maudlin. I haven’t written, which is always alarming. I have been pushing words around my screen like cold brussel sprouts, unable and unwilling to finish a dozen pieces now sitting in my draft folder. Wondering, like a spoiled child, if writing a blog was worth the effort. I have had terrible nightmares which have woken me up with a beating heart and the need to search their meaning in obscure dream books.
I have wondered about the world without me in it, a future without my husband by my side. I have looked at my naked body after a shower and considered how long it will continue to work. I have worried about my final years, my children, my extended family.
I was told about a young boy, my son’s age, who has just died from a heart attack. I could not think properly about anything else for the rest of the day.
Life’s weird pattern occasionally allows you to notice or hear something for the first time, only to be presented with it again and again. I looked it up, it’s called the Baader-Meinhof (pronounced badder mainhoff) phenomenon. For the last month, my brain has had a cognitive bias towards death, selectively zooming in on the subject. All around me have been stories of premature deaths, the struggles of moving into a care home, battles with cancer and the loss of parents, partners, worse still children.
I visited a graveside and thought deeply about the people beneath my feet, their lives, the ones they left behind, for an unusually long time. I thought about my body being buried or cremated. If I was not to be buried where would I want my ashes to go, did I even care, who was the process important to?
I am not frightened of death or the natural processes of life so I am not sure why I have been restricted by this morbid shroud. Suddenly, this morning I woke up without its weight. On reflection, sitting here writing again, wrapped instead in a thick knitted blanket, I think I have just faced my mortality. The shock of a young boy and a heart attack had set something in motion.
I have noticed the new aches and limitations of my own body more keenly, imagined a life without my own thoughts or the ability to move painlessly. I have fantasied about the tears and words that might be spilled at the time of my death. Would anyone care, will I have made a difference, did that even matter?
I visited an exhibition during these weeks. Here’s the blurb and a video I found of the exhibition when it was held in England 2015. There is a strong reaction to these images, be warned before you scroll down! Some people are revolted, others, like myself, totally absorbed.
BODY WORLDS is the Original Exhibition of Real Human Bodies – seen by 45 million visitors globally. Vital celebrates the potential of the human body and the body in motion. It educates visitors about human health, wellness, and disease. By making healthy living practices an integral part of our lives, we can inoculate our bodies from a host of illnesses and medical conditions. The exhibit inspires visitors to assert themselves and to claim responsibility for their own health and well-being.
It was the most unexpected experience. I came away from the exhibition with a new respect for life and my body. Having studied the process of life in its most raw and organic form, I now wonder if it started in me the need to accept that, one day I will die. Of course, death is always there, waiting on the sidelines of my consciousness but I never really look up from my game to face it. Maybe the nightmares, apathy, self-obsession and strange deep indulgent thoughts were my brain’s way of dealing with it all for me, as my body got on with the day to day of living. A covert operation to prepare me for the day I would have to look death in the face??
I have visulised my death, imagined my final days, the sights and smells, the tears the loss. I have wondered if I will be in my own bed and thought about the embarrassments of being cared for by another. I have imagined the indignities of my body closing down and wished for a painless end.
I guess this could have been a crippling process but I have come out of the other side with a new sense of purpose and a bit of a to do list. It includes, making sure my family knows my wishes for when I can no longer discuss them. I will talk more of my death at the dinner table.
I have thought about what I want to do with my remaining life. I have remembered how lucky I am, I had a happy childhood, I am confident my kids will be happy too. My life is relatively stress free and I enjoy outstanding supportive friends and family. I do not want for anything. I am unbelievably privileged. I will not forget these truths again.
I have seen that I do not want to have any regrets or be scared and bitter when time is called. A common theme I am sure, so I will make an effort to knock a few more bucket list items off. I will try to be kinder to myself, live in the moment. The ability to live in the moment is something that brings older people a sense of calm I have read. “The elderly become more present-centered,” says Steve Taylor, a lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University in Leeds, England, “and research shows that being present-centered leads to enhanced well-being, regardless.
I will try to be more healthy, concentrate on love and life over things. How does the saying go? you can’t take it with you. All lofty aspirations, but I have a new vigour. I have faced my death, I have spoken of it, I have accepted. Now it is time to live the best life I can, time is ticking, nothing motivates like a deadline.
To my children. I have remembered that life is precious, I know that I have the power to adjust and continue to grow, no matter how old I am. I know that nothing is permanent, like my words in the sand. I want you to know that one generation replacing the next is life. When I die be happy for the life I have led.