I appreciate my demise is a regular theme of my writing. But maybe it is important that I prompt contemplation of this huge, inevitable event that most of us spend our lives trying to ignore. And perhaps a more useful outcome of my reflections is that they were not what I expected them to be.
13 years ago it looked a certainty that I was going to die. Not just once, but a couple of times just to make sure. The extreme and very rare cancer diagnosis I was given should have been plenty by itself. But the two bouts of meningitis and deep vein thrombosis that followed looked to be the undertakers insurance that their payday was a shoo-in.
I was determined to have all eventualities covered so I went looking for some reading material on the subject. I couldn’t find any. There were plenty of articles on debt management, but nothing on death management. But debt won’t kill you. Your death will.
Part of the problem is that all of the experts in this area are unfortunately no longer available to pass on the benefit of their experience. For the rest of us, on this side of dying, it seems to be the one topic we are very slow to embrace. We have it scheduled in for some time in the distant future, but are far too busy for it now. But we are all going to die and in our world we know that people die every day from the ages of one day to 115 years old.
So although a lot of what I have written since my inspirational cancer survival has concerned the fight I put up to stay alive and the great delight and perspective I now have at still being here, I also feel the need on occasion to write about dying. In the absence of the real experts I have probably got one of the next best experiences available to us. I went to the very precipice of my life and was not afraid to peer over. And hopefully something written on this difficult subject from a “thinking outside the box” viewpoint, if you will pardon the pun, is of benefit.
The most dramatic and surprising aspect of looking at my death was that I only ended up seeing my life. Rather than mourn the part of my life that was not to extend beyond 40 years of age, I only appreciated all the more the life I had enjoyed from 0 and 40. I could suddenly see all the people in the world who hadn’t even got close to 40, the 3 year old with leukemia, the 17 year old in the car accident. Then I could see all the people who would live twice as long as me but never have the life I had. The child soldier, the trafficked sex worker, the people in every country all over the world whose entire lives are blighted by illness or violence or poverty or hunger or oppression. Contemplating the likelihood of my death only transformed into another powerful force in the appreciation of my life and my fight to keep that life alive. It tricked me into thinking it was an enemy to my fight, when it was always my ally to remind me how good it was to be alive and to have lived.
We should all just deal with the fact we are going to die, put it away and start use it as a wonderful incentive to live all the more.
The other major consequence of considering your death is it will prompt you to wonder what happens next. Apart from any spiritual belief I have always held a practical view on what I see on earth. The human being is a very flawed species. The best of us make mistakes every day. The worst of us commit unimaginable atrocities. From the evidence I see I don’t believe we are capable of making the sun or the stars or volcanos or oceans. I also can’t explain earthquakes or droughts or tsunamis or suicide bombs. But I believe there has to be an explanation for them. One day, everything has to make sense. No matter who we are we seem to have a common denominator in recognizing good and a desire to be happy. I believe we have a greater force that is one of goodness and love.
So a little bit of me will always see my death as a gateway to those questions being answered. Maybe we are clinging to this world like a life raft, when a luxury liner is waiting just feet away. A place where all the injustice we see will be put right. Perhaps it will be the earth perfect. No crime, no violence, no injustice. You will love everybody, and everybody will love you. I have barely travelled beyond Europe and the U.S. so what a pity I have seen so little of the outstanding beauty of this planet. Maybe there I will be able to walk the Great Wall in China, have coffee at the Sydney Opera House, stand to admire the Victoria Falls and go to the Superbowl, all within an hour.
I have already been granted 13 years that I should not have had, so how can I have any fear when my time does eventually come. I will live and cherish every second of my wonderful life until then, but I also have a great hope that my death will be the start of the greatest adventure of all!