Every one of us plods through life at our own pace. Some of us sprint through with a to-do list as long as our life span, some of us jog along whilst managing to juggle all of lifes tricks and some of us stroll, enjoying the view as we ramble along. But we all have an end date, we all have to face that darkness one day, the word we cannot face; death.
It’s the unspoken word, it’s the he-who-not-be-named of life as is Voldemort to the Harry Potter world, it’s the word that makes your face involuntarily crumble and your mind scatter to any conversation that doesn’t involve such a somber topic. So when reality hits and the big scary hooded monster with a scythe feels like he’s unbearably near, how do we cope?
We all live in an exorcised fantasy of falling into a blissful eternal sleep in our old age, safe in the knowledge that a hoard of grandchildren will continue our legacy as children mourn but smile fondly at the good memories shared. Our last precious moments usually consist of wishing love and happiness to our nearest and dearest by some form of idyllic ocean view far away from the face of a grim reality.
But unfortunately we can’t all live out that dream; some of us walk into the street at the wrong moment, some of us have our lives stolen at the hands of a stranger, some of us are struck by the impossible and some of us are facing that our body is giving up quicker than our mind can. How can we come to terms with the fact of knowing our life is terminal? How can we survive each day when a split second can steal our last breath from us?
Death becomes real when you see your fathers eyes fill with tears as he grasps for air, you see the frustration in his face as he gazes out the window contemplating all these thoughts we normally turn away from. You know he’s not ready, you know you can never be ready to face this inevitable fate and you know that grief is going to knock on your door and far outstay its welcome.
However, there is some form of strength that appears from nowhere. The ability to hold back the tears when you are facing the possibility of such sorrow, to hold your fathers hand willing him that he will be okay regardless of the outcome. We Brits have a knack of putting the kettle on, making a cup of tea and patting each other on the back to help in terms of immense gloom. Of brushing our pain under the carpet and putting on a false smile to the world because giving up and letting it out means opening a floodgate that you might never be able to close again.
Today my Dad asked me my thoughts on what happens after we die. My heart sank and all form of strength dissipated. The ‘he-who-should-not-be-named’ was now staring bleakly into my eyes, and at the hands of a loved one who was beginning to think his time on earth was overrun. Tears filled my eyes as I choked back any word that fell from my mouth, but in the hours since, it has become clear to me that maybe we should face these difficult subjects with our loved ones. To know their wishes, to comfort them rather than shy away and to truly try to understand our beliefs on life after death no matter how difficult.
Whilst you may not want to drop in your funeral details at the next family dinner, how about falling into a conversation of life which will inevitably lead to a conversation of death. Your wishes, your plans, your beliefs and your idyllic ending to a good life lived. I can’t imagine it’ll ever become common practise to talk about grief and loss everyday; but when the time comes it will linger in your mind more than most. Rather than be horrified by it, attempt to welcome it and cherish all the moments between those dreadful thoughts so you know you still lived before you died.
I was inspired to write this by an extremely brave woman who suddenly lost her father before Christmas. I read the words knowing that one day it’ll be me feeling those emotions, coming to terms with immense grief and learning to cope in a world where my Dad won’t be there. In truth, we will all connect to those words if we haven’t done so already. So rather than dwell in loss, let’s survive and find new ways to live with death by our sides.