Thursday, November 26, 2015

Is dying such a terrible thing?

Of course it is, when young people are cut down in the prime of their life, by disease, accidents and acts of war and terror. But for the rest of us heading into old age, there seems to be a growing culture of trying to postpone the inevitable, with supplements, growth hormones, stem cell treatments … there seems to be a new elixir of youth touted every day that promise longer life. But isn't death a natural part of life?

I've always said that if I were to die today, or tomorrow, I'll go quite contentedly. I'll miss seeing my son, B, undoubtedly, and how he'll mature as a man, have a family and all that. But after 50 odd years, I can say that I've lived quite a full life. I've lived in different parts of the world, traveled extensively and had myriad experiences. If I had to go now, I'll have very few regrets.

Sure, I want to live my remaining years as healthily as I can, which is why I watch what I eat, exercise and get enough sleep. I'm prone to heart disease and don't want a stroke or seizure to condemn my last days to being a vegetable, dependent on others to care for me. But I've set my affairs in order and made my will. I'm pretty much set for death.

I know some elderly folk, especially men,  who won't even discuss their impending death, maybe out of denial or because of some self-created taboos. Denying it won't make it less likely to happen. Death is really the end of a cycle that we live on earth, and we owe it to ourselves to make it as graceful and dignified as we possibly can, to cap a life well-lived, so we can look forward to a well-earned rest.

A coffin lies in waiting in the upper loft
A few years ago, when I was passing through a tiny village in China, I stopped at a farmhouse which seemed to be inhabited only by an elderly woman. I was told that her children were away working in the city. Deep lines etched on her face spoke of a tough life in harsh conditions. As I was standing in the open courtyard, my eyes were drawn to an upper loft in her forlorn home. It was pointed out to me that there was a coffin there, in readiness for the old lady's death. She must have saved up every penny in her already frugal life to have that coffin in readiness, so that she could be accorded an honor in death that perhaps she never experienced in her own life. What sacrifices she must have made in life, just to have a grand death!
Despite a hard life, she's very upbeat!

I don't need a pompous funeral or ornate coffin. Plywood will do me fine!

A friend once remarked that, in comparison with mine, her own life has been so mundane and uneventful. Because my 50 odd years have been filled with so many roller coaster experiences, I'm hoping for a really quiet death. In bed preferably, because that's one of my favorite places! As for my send-off, my circle of family and friends has shrunk so much anyway that hardly anyone will be around to send me off.

I read somewhere that life is a near-death experience. People talk about their near-death experiences, whether escaping an accident alive or surviving surgery, where they see their lives flashing before their eyes, or envision a warm, white light. I've had a couple of those myself, and afterward, feel so grateful for just the feeling of being totally alive. I know it's ridiculous to be on such a high day after day, but really, doesn't every day bring us closer to the inevitable and shouldn't we celebrate life to the fullest? I do know that I want my remaining years to be a joyful and full of thanksgiving, while I'm still around. Every day at this point is a bonus.

Death isn't a topic many of us want to discuss or even consider, but it's very much a part of life - we needn't shy away from it or fear it. Here's a video that puts it all into perspective:

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