The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 13, 2010


Photo by Mollie McPhee Ho

Intimations of Mortality

This has been a very rough year for some of us who are about sixty years old – at least in my world. In the last 12 months I have lost two classmates and childhood friends (amongst others) and one neighbor was almost a goner were it not for incredibly competent doctors in what is arguably the best city in the world to get sick in. One died of cancer, one of a brain tumor and one nearly died of a massive heart attack.

Of the two who died, neither sought life-extending treatment in the face of an unavoidable and imminent demise. One sought the comfort and company of friends, the other felt so demoralized and spiritually disfigured that he shut the world out save for the most immediate family members. Neither chose to persist and die in hospital; rather they both sought refuge in the sanctuaries that were their homes, looking out at the world they loved and the peaceful surroundings that had nourished them in healthier days.

Both had a zest for life, had built a far-flung community of friends, had ebullient personalities and everything to live for. We played wildly together until we separated. Somehow we quietly grew up (arguably a bit late) and became what some might consider good citizens. Go figure.

We all think about the meaning of life and other weighty issues from time to time. Maybe on a particularly depressive Sunday morning or when an older family member or friend finds themselves in extremis. It is one thing, perhaps, to pass on when one is in their seventies and at least had a crack at ‘retirement’ but to die suddenly (not as a result of an accident or the result of something else ‘that should not have happened’) but due to an untreatable pernicious disease at the age of (let’s say) 63? It does make one think a bit about what life may have in store for them just around the corner.

How is that some are felled by dint of bad luck, swept away suddenly like a receding tidal wave plucking this or that unfortunate in its race to restore the upset equilibrium which normally pervades our daily routines?

Were one to be of a religious persuasion, one could blame it on the improvidence of their god or take remorseful succor in the imputed comfort if they could not place blame. Agnostics have no-one to blame and must seek succor somewhere else. One of the aforementioned was deeply religious, the other was of a less than rigorous spiritual bent.

So it seems to me that there is no rhyme or reason to how long our string of days might be; there is no amount of kneeling or flying in the face of common sense that determines our fate. It is just dumb luck; bad luck beyond our ken. We are simply visible entities in our communities that are to be celebrated for what we are able to contribute and not mourned for what did not transpire (despite the fondest hopes of family and friends). We are each a star in the human constellation and at some point for some reason, we will each burn out. Hopefully our light will have reached the earth in time to do some good for somebody that is worth remembering. ∆


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