Thoughts on mortality


Tomorrow I will be attending a family funeral. My relative died three weeks ago after a long battle with illness. He lived less than an hour from me, I knew he was seriously ill, but I never found the time to visit. Yet I’m finding the time to go and pay my respects, to support his family. In part that’s down to a sense of familial duty: going to funerals of relatives is what we as a family do.

That’s got to be the wrong way round, hasn’t it? Why have I waited till someone dies before paying my respects, before going to see him and his family. Isn’t the time that he (and they) most need me is when he’s still alive, so he knows that he’s in my thoughts? Isn’t that the kind thing, the caring thing, the right thing to do? These are thoughts that have been eating me up, and Dee has been very supportive throughout. 

That’s something that I recognise I need to do better. Spending time with people when they’re alive is a rare privilege, because all too soon they’re gone, and you’ll never have that opportunity again. 

Over 10 years ago I made a good friend when I trekked on Kilimanjaro. We never saw each other after spending those 10 or 11 days on the trip, but we spoke every couple of months and the friendship continued. It was a friendship born out of shared experience, and there were no romantic notions or undertones. One Christmas she emailed me to tell me she’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer. A few days later my house was flooded due to burst pipes and things were up in the air, with me staying in a hotel for a fortnight while repairs were done and the house dried out. At the end of January I thought I would drop my friend a line, but I saw on Facebook that she’d passed away a few days before. 

I was shocked by how quickly that had happened. I’d had no idea she was so poorly. And I’d had days where I did nothing but watch TV waiting for my house to dry out. Why hadn’t I phoned her, gone to see her, let her know I was thinking of her? 

It’s plain to see that I didn’t learn my lesson, but I’m determined to learn it now. Life is short. Life is precious. Spend your time with those you love and like. Be good to those around you and make the most of every moment you get to spend with them. 

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