You know you are getting old when you have the following happen to you. We were sitting in the car at traffic lights when my wife innocently asked me “How do you feel about dying?”. I thought about it as we travelled through the intersection and then blurted out “I’m quite looking forward to it really”, a response that nearly caused my wife to run off the road. I hastily corrected it to what was more like my true thinking on the issue, “I mean I am really curious about it but not looking forward to it as such.” We then had an interesting discussion of what death meant to each of us and what our expectations were. It was quite pleasant to be able to discuss such a nearly taboo subject in an environment of mutual love.
I have just had my seventy-something birthday so I guess that gives me some right to think about an event that must by virtue of age alone be rushing toward me rather than dawdling around so far in the future as to be not worthy of considered thought. I also suffered a mild stroke about eighteen months ago which fortunately doesn’t appear to have had any long term effects but was a wake-up call of sorts. I also have telltale signs on my brain MRI’s of multiple TIA’s (transient ischemic attacks) which are better known as mini-strokes. I have had periods for about seven years now where I just hit the wall with bouts of incredible tiredeness never experienced in my younger days and which force me to just have a snooze to recover. My suspicion, and it is a suspicion only not based on any medical evidence, that these are the times when I am possibly having a TIA.
I also have type two diabetes, controlled with metformin and insulin, to help hurry the process along perhaps but let’s consider my genetics. My grandfather at eighty-four collapsed on the back porch and was dead before he reached the floor. My grandmother had a massive stroke at sixty-seven and died in hospital two days later. My father died in his sleep of a heart attack at sixty-nine. My mother died of a sudden heart attack at seventy-one just sitting on the toilet. Can you see a pattern here? What do you think are the odds of my dying of a heart related problem?
Now to get back to my wife’s follow up question, what do I expect then when I die ? At the outset let me say that I am in no hurry to get to this point. Molly and I have four adult children and six grandchildren who we love dearly and watching their growth and development is one of the joys of my life. How will they each turn out, what does life hold for them and what sort of children will the grandchildren have? Life continues on through them and that is the only permanency any of us can realistically hope for.
However my curiosity centres around the greatest mystery of life, is there any continuation after death? What is really beyond the end? I am quite prepared for that answer to be a resounding nothing, other than the slow moldering away of any ashes my body leaves behind when life has finally departed. Any other alternative answer must be a bonus then but I believe it highly unlikely that it will involve some man made concept of a heaven and/or a hell. I have no real conjecture on what else it may be because there are very few, if any, clues as to what “it” might be. If there is anything I expect it will be a completely different scenario beyond anything our feeble imagination can conceive and without any reference to this life lived. I see nothing to be afraid of nor do I at this stage have any regrets about having to leave this life at some time. It might be a different story of course when faced with the reality of the ultimate closure but I doubt it, that will be when the curiosity really kicks in.
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