I have blogged about this quite a lot over the years, but from time to time the urge to try and connect with my true feelings on the matter resurfaces, and eats away at me for a bit. Like now. For some reason, after watching the scene from a TV drama, the matter of death comes flooding back.
February is always a pretty dark month for me anyway, even with the sunshine on top, below the surface bubbles a little anxiety, and I guess a little sadness. For years it was about my daughter. How dare I celebrate a birthday without her in my life. Especially with hers being just a few short days before my own. But as the years have passed, the reasoning has changed, and possibly to more morbid reasoning.
Feb 13th 2008, my mum came to me and told me she thought she might have cancer. My birthday that year (the next day) was spent at the doctors, first getting her an appointment for that day, and then being there while the doctor examined her and confirmed she very much had breast cancer. And a long journey began.
With her 70th birthday just around the corner the appointments started, and a few days after her 70th we went the hospital where I was called in to the consult room and asked to reason with her by the specialist. Having examined her she had cancer in both breasts, and was refusing ANY treatment. By the time we left she was open to the idea.
After a long fight, and some true highs, on August 5th 2011 mum finally passed away. Sitting by her side, watching her breathing become laboured, before finally exhaling for the last time, it was quite a surreal moment to watch your only parent die before your eyes. Thankfully, it was a rare occasion that myself and my sister were with her, with no kids etc. So part of me feels she found peace in that moment, and chose it herself.
Medically the morphine inhibited her breathing, and her already weak body gave out. Either way, she went peacefully and with dignity, just as she would have wanted.
Mum's passing is probably one of the most profound for me, as you would expect, but the list of people I have lost in all manner of ways is just too long, and one that haunts me every time I recall who, how and when.
In fact the above is the reason I am writing this now, as another year ticks around for me, and I turn 42 now, I look back at the long list of friends who have not even made it this far in life. Ill health, accidents, and suicide, has taken some of my closest friends over the years, all my junior. I said many years ago, back in my twenties, that I would be dead before I was 40. However at that time I really don't think I had given the thought of death much real consideration. Greatly unaffected by it at that point, it was just brave to talk trash about death, but as the years have passed by, it means more.
Given it can come in so many ways, never knowing what the cause will be. So many lose their lives at the hands of others, through no fault of their own. Accidents on the UK motorways today are a great example of this.
Take a look at the statistics for a moment. In the last week of January this year, 12,900 people in the UK died. That's 1,842 people a day or 76 people an hour. More than one a minute.
Now of course yes a lot of these are natural causes, illness etc, but what difference does that make? Mum knew she was going for 3 years, but still left 2 kids, 5 grand kids and her sister all with a hole in their lives.
My point is, and its a very vague one, death is all around us, just around the corner, how many people in the UK alone have died in the time you have been reading this. How many families every hour begin the painful journey of letting someone go?
The age old question, are you scared of death? Well are you? I have thought about this over and over for years, and still can't make sense of my conclusions. Death itself is final, once its happened, its done with, for the deceased at least. Fear goes away, pain too, but for the families it is only just starting.
My feelings on it are maybe a little too rational for some to comprehend. In conversations I have had about it in the past, I have come out looking a little strange to say the least.
When I think about death, it makes me sad. I like being a part of peoples lives, I like making a difference, and creating memories with people. When I look back at people I have lost, its the memories which keep the person with us. The thought of that ending is sad for me. Just as it saddens me that I no longer have them in my life to enjoy their company and make more memories.
The cold harsh truth is though, we all move on. While we remember those we have lost, our lives continue and adapt. So to believe that our passing is anything but an event in our friends and loved ones lives, is to me at least, somewhat irrational.
That said, my take on death in general might not be what you would call the average or common perception.
The other part about dying which really sucks, is the future. The crazy and dynamic world we live in is constantly promising and making leaps forward, space travel, technology, health care etc. To think that at some point I will stop seeing these advances is one which actually saddens me deeply. Maybe its my techy geekiness that drives that emotion. Maybe its my detachment from others around me which makes me feel this way. Grasping for something to hold on to and be relevant to me.
So am I scared of death, and the event it is? Hard to say, I have never been close enough to know the answer to that. My rational is simple, I can't control it, I am not the master of my final act, and whatever lifes plan is for me, I have to suck it up. Its nice to imagine it will be painless, but not for me. More for those around me. I don't want a wake of sadness left behind me, and I guess that is one of the reasons I try to be so open about my thoughts and feelings. I can't say another word when I am gone, so would love to think that in my ramblings both verbally and written, that people can find the answers to their questions. Who I care about, love, and my feelings on all aspects of life.
I like to think I am an open book, I encourage those in my life to challenge me, question me, and discover all they want to know on a daily basis. One day, the final day will come, and I hope dearly that I leave no confusion or unanswered questions behind. Until that day, I will keep throwing my thoughts out there, and try and make sure I have it all covered.
I do have a project I really must complete one day, one I have spoken of before. It has had many names, but 'If tomorrow never comes' seems the most prudent.
A frank summary of all things truly meaningful to me. Feelings, memories etc, which I would want those involved in it to know, just to confirm they know, and will forever know how I feel about them and our time together.
So, that's my thoughts for this Valentine's Day 2015, and of course my birthday.
Live every day like your last. Tell people how you really feel about them, and don't try and find the right time for things... It might never come, then it will never happen. Most of all, smile, and enjoy the gift of life you have, and spend it with people you care about.
Thanks for reading, sorry for the downer.
PS, some stats for those interested. A full breakdown of the 491,348 deaths in England and Wales in 2009 (yup almost half a million people in one year)