To clarify, I have not been told I’m dying, not anymore so than any of the rest of us, and for that I am of course thankful. My 4 year old recently asked me how old are we when we die? These are common questions from her, along with were there houses at the start of the world? and were you and Daddy brother and sister once? I just try to answer her the straightest way possible and she accepted my answer of ‘we don’t know, it’s one of life’s great mysteries’. But it made me feel all squeamish inside. The thought of dying or anyone I know dying is naturally a topic I want to push out of my mind the moment it arrives. In my time I’ve known closely two sudden accidental deaths, one murder and one suicide and I’ve gotten to the point where I declare that enough is enough, no more, I will not cope and in my weak moments in the middle of the night I make whispered bargains with the darkness… please don’t take this one, I’ll make sure I do x…
But all of this of course again is useless and wasted energy, because life will carry on and death will come to all of us. But I asked my psychologist how I deal with these anxious thoughts that come, this fear of dying or of loved ones dying? She told me, as above, I need to think about it more.
It just seems crazy at first thought but she advised, don’t push away those thoughts when they come, just accept them – yes it will be terribly sad when that happens but the time is not now. I don’t know if I can do that to be honest. The thoughts steal in quickly and around good things so I don’t see them coming. I’ll be admiring a picture drawn by the 4 year old and suddenly be struck with a fear of losing her. It’s not surprising that I have become used to batting away their insults fast.
But enough talking about it for now, I don’t even like writing about death, but the suggestion got me to considering what I would do if I knew I only had months to live. It’s sadly unfortunate that this does happen to people. I heard a story just the other day of a family friend given 2 weeks to live. It’s appalling but it’s a fact.
I know the first things I would do. I would make a photo album of my favourite photos just of me and my daughter and write down all the best, funny and loving stories I could remember to leave for her. I would relegate the job back into the background but make sure I left people in capable hands. I think I would give away a lot of my possessions. I don’t have a lot ( I rent my home) but there is still quite a lot of stuff I have that I don’t need or use, like second TV’s and computers. I would quiet down the noise… switch off the internet (except to share with you lot), switch off the TV, the radio and enjoy life. I would listen to beautiful music, I would connect with only a very few important people in my life and be brave and ask the others to leave and take their drama with them. And I would eat more desserts. Lots of yummy chocolatey desserts. I would probably take one last business class flight to somewhere amazing in the world with my daughter – back to Africa or somewhere stunning like the Avenue of the Volcanoes or maybe even New Zealand.
But all this is just a sort of romantic idea. My practical brain wants to know the details, like will I be bed-bound towards the end, what illness might I have and what limitations will that place etc etc. You cannot comprehend until faced with it. Instead of making me feel inspired to live this life I describe now, I feel frightened still whenever I think about the certainty that one day I will face death, whether it be in an instant or over time. I guess I do have some more thinking to do before I lose that fear.