Horizon at Sandy Point

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Delighting in death

There's something to be said for shuffling off this mortal coil sooner rather than later. Sooner - to free up available resources for those left behind. Sooner - to release others from the possible burden of putting you in care, or wiping your dribble and becoming parent-minders to your dotage. Sooner - to let your children take responsibility for themselves - you never really "grow up" until your own parents have died. Sooner - if you can predetermine a "peak" age or time - to adequately prepare.

Of course, none of us believe that we ever pass the "best by" date. But that's an illusion. You will never again be as good as you were in your prime. I probably wasted my prime! Most of us do, actually. What period in your life do you consider your peak physical condition, best mental acuity - think about it.

The other argument is that we (some of us) need to look after "old people" to develop some kind of compassionate heart. There are those who will argue that a second childhood - or dotage - is to teach the young compassion and patience; in gratitude for what the aged ones earlier bestowed. Quid pro quo. We need to learn compassion at all ages, and for more than our own kin, or kind. We should all  understand and care for all creatures great and small; to respect the life force that is in the all, rather than in the individual. 

Like it or not, a death will always have some cheerless tasks. What to do with the body is the main one. But there are options: and as the biggest living resource on the earth, humans could probably come up with more useful uses for dead bodies - and I don't mean soylent green.

I have expressed my wish for a sky burial - my body to be raised on scaffolding for birds of prey to feed. Since this is not likely to be allowed, then burial - in a shroud, without a casket - is probably better for the earth. If burning is tidy, then put my ashes to sea in Grange Bay, or at least off the north coast of Trinidad. I am imposing no directives on my body's disposal since it will truly be out of my hands.

There will be minor interruptions in the lives of others: bills to be paid, and earthly accumulations to be divvied up. Some will mourn; others will not. There will be facebook posts and commiseration. But life will go on, as it should.

I am not afraid of dying. No more than I am of being alone; or separated from those I love.  I thank my parents for their good grace in not lingering past sanity. Three score and ten each, and not much more, there's no longevity in my genes. If I do push on beyond their years, don't mind if you find me cold in my bed, or looking at tv, or anywhere else. It's just my old body that will have reached its "best before" date.

At my end of life celebration, remember that I loved to dance. Remember the music that I enjoyed. Remember me in the food that you prepare every day!

The one certainty in my life is that I am going to die. I hope that when I do everything will be in good order. If we want to worry about sustaining life, think of the beings that are displaced by over seven billion humans. If my timely death allows the life of some other species - sharks or leopards; snake, fish or bird or bat - then let me release this valuable earth space.

Our preoccupation - indeed veneration - with life beyond "living" is creating problems not just for humans but for the health of the earth itself. Too many of us want too much. And in spite of what the religious tell us, there is only this, and now. Heaven and earth right here, this moment.

Let us not protest dying, but instead live fully, simply, generously. My legacy is already in the genes. I do not need to be in their lives.

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