I had some news this evening. The brother of one of my oldest friends has died. Hardly in his 70s; taken by bone cancer, an insidious, and barely understood disease.
This got me thinking; about loss, death, and bereavement.
In my youth, I was taught a lot about education, opportunity, and behaviour. What was expected of me, and how best to deal with these aspects of life. I was never taught about the end of life; death, loss, the finality. My earliest experience was the death of my maternal grandfather, who died when I was almost thirteen. There was a quiet, almost a hush. Little or nothing was said about his life. But the details of his death were freely discussed, for all to hear. To me, it was as if his sixty-five years as a sentient, living being, were of no consequence. Everybody talked about his death from a heart attack, in a holiday caravan, and his impending funeral.
It was a long time after this, that I started to lose my own contemporaries. I was thirty-five years old, in 1987, when one of my closest friends died, aged only forty. It came as a great shock. Attending his funeral, I kept expecting to see him turn up, and order a drink from the bar. All these years later, and I still have a problem believing he is dead. And I have seen his headstone, as I stood beside his grave. In the ensuing years since, losing some more friends, and a great deal of my family, it has never once got easier. Despite terminal illness, accident, or old age, the moment of their passing has still come as a shock. It wasn’t until my Mum died after a long illness, in 2012, that I could honestly say that someone was better off dead. I also thought that I could deal with it easier in this way, though later events proved me completely wrong.
I conclude that we in the West need better education. From a reasonably early age, say twelve, we should be prepared for these losses, by the system that educates us. We should be more aware of illness, age, and infirmity, and what outcome to expect as a result. There should be more celebration of life, rather than mourning of death. A lot less negatives, contrasted by a lot more positives. It should become an accepted fact of life that we will die, and that the time of our death is a variable. It is as valuable a knowledge as any other, and needs to be treated as such, not shied away from.
Perhaps, if this ever happens, people will value what life they have to a much greater degree, and do more with it. Who knows? it has to be worth a try though. Don’t you agree?