Death, the final act and all the significance that it entails. How to ascribe beauty in the sublimation of raw youth or celebrate the life of some septuagenarian in heroic reminisce, attribute some meaning, some relevance to the passing carnage of a life poorly spent in ignorant rambling or give praise to the man of substance whose presence can never be filled. But what do I know of that…clearly nothing aside from blank rhetoric. Consequently, what can I carry in the way of apprehension or fear as I find myself the passenger in a speeding vehicle on a foray towards a dying man. Blind in my way, setting out on a summer’s morning, rare sunlight slanting early glow into my eyes. Dim as the early morning stupor and lingering effects of a night’s pointless drinking renders me monosyllabic once more. Serving its purpose I suppose, as the journey is one of contemplation and reflection…a last visit to an old friend.
Death travels in mysterious ways and forms, sometimes brief and chaotic, sometimes over years of brutal pain and decay. No one knows the day or the hour simply that it is the only certainty we can ever truly accept in life. Perhaps there is some beautiful symmetry in this idea but there is little beauty in the act itself, this passing- despite whatever patriotic dogma has been rammed into one’s consciousness. Three weeks previous, the old man, in his late seventies, had visited our home. He had driven the thirty odd miles alone and met us in his customary ebullience, cheerful as ever. A man whose vitality and drive suggested a model of health in old age, his face a healthy glow as he swilled another cup of tea, trading a series of wise cracks. Merely days later, a diagnosis resulting from a routine inspection gave the old man mere weeks to live. God giveth, God taketh away.
But what of death…its omnipresence renders it something we can direct disposable sympathy towards or even ignore. Media impressions of it drain it of any personal touch. Bodies pile up on screens, depicted in sensationalised gore infused print and visualised in graphic freeze-frame, but these corpses remain elusive, anonymous. So we become detached, can we truly grieve for these paper victims? Harrowing reports of the old man over the intervening weeks suggesting a massive spiral downwards in health had hardly registered with me. Illness is easier out of picture, terminal illness doubly so. How can one envisage a rapidly disintegrating old man without some context? Continue reading “A Passing” »