Tough topic

October 20th 2 minutes from home

There seem to be pages of photographs arriving on my computer just lately and I’m beginning to be overwhelmed by them!

And I find that my new iPhone has quite a reasonable photographic capability which is a welcome bonus except that I will need to learn how best to use it.

Assuming I figure it all out there is the larger problem of actually transferring the images to my PC.

Having achieved this yesterday, today I cannot seem to remember how I did it!

Chances are I would have continued with this frustrating puzzle but a rather distressing phone call rather took the wind out of my sails.

Just two weeks ago I finally made contact with a new psychiatrist who was helping me to adjust my medication. An initial visit with a new psychiatrist is never a very enjoyable encounter because it involves relating, one more time, at least some of one’s past experiences.

But I got through it and was glad to have established a relationship with a new doctor.

The phone call I just received was to let me know that my new doctor had died very suddenly which must have been a terrible shock for his colleagues.

How frightful for the staff to have to contact all the patients with such news when they must themselves be overwhelmed.

And for patients who had a long term relationship with the doctor, I imagine his passing could be quite traumatic.

Oh dear.

When I was a child I remember being told that a distant relative, who I had never met had died. At that age, I was very impressionable and it seemed to be something very awful, quite frightening.

It was not many years before I heard again of a death. This time it was another child that I only knew very vaguely. She and her sister lived in the same block of flats. We didn’t share a common language or we may have been friends. Sadly, the girl somehow drowned in the Mekong River.

It brought back that dark, sick feeling I remembered even though I didn’t know the girl well.

Just a few years after that, I was home from boarding school during the summer holiday and got a letter from the sister of a girl I had been friendly with.

We had been good friends but we had a disagreement about some stupid thing which blew up into a fight. It got out of hand and the rest of the students ostracized me, making life rather hard.

Then, while we were on holiday I read in her sister’s letter that the girl had died from a brain tumor.This came as a bad shock and I felt somehow that it was my fault but I was afraid to talk to my mother about it.

After this I had no more such experiences until I was in the USA. One of the neighbors died and we had to go to the wake.

This was not something I had ever heard of and I found it tremendously stressful to go to look at a dead person lying in a coffin.

For years and years I never knew how to react, how to speak to someone who was bereaved.

Maybe it was the premature death of my sister-in-law that made me re-evaluate my attitude. Her death was deeply shocking because she was so young and it was so sudden.

There was no hiding from it, though. I had to go to support my brother and his two (grown up) children. In fact, I had very little to offer by way of support, but it was important for me to be there.

The last time I had seen my brother and sister-in-law had been at my mother’s funeral. Geographically, we had been separated as young children.

We each had completely different lives but my brother was/is my only contemporary relative. So my only way of showing that I cared was by being present at his wife’s funeral.

It was probably the last time I managed to contain tears publicly. I couldn’t let anyone see me cry because I didn’t feel I had the right. My tears were about so much more than my sister-in-law and her family and I just about choked.

But since that time I seem to feel differently about death and I am no longer afraid of speaking to the bereaved.

No doubt it’s partly my age. I always wondered how old people deal with knowing that their years are dwindling away. No doubt it’s different for everyone but in my own experience, the approaching end just doesn’t matter. Maybe you just get tired.

Although, when a dear friend opted for assisted suicide, following a second stroke, I was deeply upset. I was surprised by this because my friend had often talked of ending her life and I knew it was what she wanted. Maybe it was just that I never got to say goodbye.

There are no words of wisdom here, but I think our society has an unhealthy way of handling death. It should be no more than another transition. Here it is a whole industry which I find to be obscene.

What I will say is that children ought to be assured that death is not a ghastly, taboo topic and nothing to be terrified of.

Many of us could have had an easier time.

4 thoughts on “Tough topic

  1. I think that being a country boy, or girl, seeing the patterns of birth, life, and death, helps tremendously with accepting that death is not a separate entity but is part of life itself. We in the UK have a very weird attitude to death in that people rarely see a dead body nowadays. Someone dies, more often that not in hospital, and their body is whisked away never to be seen again. Large sums are spent on all sorts of nasty chemical procedures to make the body unnaturally pretty and tidy although, in most cases, no one sees the results. We often then have a religious ceremony where someone who has never known the deceased speaks kindly of who and what they were, where some cry mostly for themselves and their thoughts of their own mortality, and relatives who have not seen the deceased for many years come to “show their respects”. I may be a little cynical!

  2. No, Peter, I think you are completely right. Sadly many people get rich preying off people who are at their most vulnerable. Not for me. If medical science wants my remains they can have it, otherwise a box with a sapling tree on top and no maudlin ceremonies!

  3. Hmm, death is not a topic that are easily discussed in daily conversations … although we all know it will happen to each of us some day (sooner or later). I don’t like it to look at a dead person in a coffin – I would rather like to remember how that person looked when he/she was healthy and alive. I’m just thinking of something now … the first time I saw a person in coffin, was when Princess Grace died and the picture of her in her coffin was widely publicised …
    Anyway, it’s sad news about your new psychiatrist (which also mean you need to find a new one now I suppose – good luck with that) …

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