Judy, are you afraid of embracing the living? Do you seek refuge in far-flung places away from reality? Why do you, once more, refuse to enter into a meaningful dialogue? Judy? Anyone home? (My frown is rendered less threatening by the irrepressible, surreptitious smile playing around my lips as I write this.)
Right, let me wipe that grin off my face. Death is an ugly word which affects everyone at some stage in their lives. So is cancer. I have never been personally confronted by either, nor have I ever been to a funeral. With the exception of my favourite cat, Kazimir, of course. I was 14 and devastated at the time. The neighbour reversed over him leaving me to cradle his broken body – our eyes locked as they clouded over and left. I never forgave that woman. Kazimir gave rise to my first serious contemplations on the matter of death.
When my granny died (that is spelt ‘g-o-d-d-e-s-s’), I was only eight – geographically far removed and only surprised that the tapes she used to send us regularly stopped coming. So we just kept listening to the old ones. She was beautiful, glamorous and only 54, when cancer took her. I think children need to be prepared to deal with death. And not ‘virtual’ death.
My 12-year-old stepdaughter, Maura, only yesterday explained to me in the kitchen why her latest videogame download is absolutely the greatest ever, demanding that every available version should, and must, fill her Christmas stocking. “You see,” she enthused, “you can kill your mother if she is too strict or boring, but only if she is asleep. Awake she is too strong and powerful and can kill you!” I dropped my stir-fry all over the floor at this point. In this particular game, however, heaven is a boardroom and you can argue your case. If convincing or sufficiently repentant, ‘God’ will forgive you and let you rejoin the game. A wonderful concept, however fanciful.
Away from the Playstation, there is no return to your old life. Yet my aforementioned childhood deliberations already lead me to the logical conclusion that Kazimir, or indeed I, cannot possibly have lived in vain to merely turn into maggot fodder, to cease to exist. No. I love Indian food and sometimes I feel close to Hinduism, if not Buddha. Being reborn into different states of perfection, until Nirvana is reached, is an over-simplification as all religious doctrines are, but somewhere out there, life continues.
Naturally, my teenage refusal to accept a finite life span was not based on any pre-determined beliefs, but strangely similar to some. The important factor in all this is that it is not fear, but hope-motivated. ‘Take me now o ye Grim Reaper, I beg you not, nor am I afraid’. It is rather gratitude and an infinite sense of curiosity which rule me (No, I have not been to see Douglas Ballard!). It makes sense, doesn’t it? Why else are we, miraculous creations, here on Earth for a cosmically speaking speck of time, to enjoy or suffer, to witness or experience cruelty and daily horror, if not for a more universal cause? I subscribe to no particular religion, yet I believe fervently in myself and in the goodness contained in each one of my fellow travellers. Love me, hate me, laugh in my face, but I shall be there, if not in this tainted paradise, then somewhere, sometime, to reach out and hold your hand (Do you think I could make it on American television?).
But before you get out your ouija boards, the ‘paranormal’ does not move me. We will meet again, but not here and now. Seances and the like are another straw to cling to, something that exists only in the minds of the desperately unhappy. So, how do people deal with grief, the loss of a loved one?
Terminal cancer victim Jane Tomlinson’s brother Luke accompanied his sister on an epic 35-day 2,500 mile tandem ride from Rome back to their home town Leeds. Their trip raised not only their spirits but a lot of cash for charity as well.
John Dodd’s wife died suddenly. His personal non-interactive void gave him the feeling that he was drowning. It was not so much that he missed her because of the things she used to do for him, but because now there was no-one he could do things for – morning tea, driving to work, you name it. It was his dog that pulled him out of his steep nosedive, turning into the perfect bereavement counsellor. Dogs need you more than you need them. They have to be fed, walked and constantly demand your attention. John’s dog helped him pull through the crisis in his life.
When Caron Keating died, Richard and Judy found themselves contemplating their own mortality. Heated discussions ensued between the two of them as to their personal preferences concerning final resting-places. As a result, Judy changed her mind, choosing to be buried rather than cremated when her time came. A grave can be a great comfort to loved ones, a point of focus and a place of peace to be visited at will for a quiet chat with the departed.
Enough of that. If you are reading this, you are alive. Let us enjoy our time here to the best of our ability. Remind yourselves that every minute, if not second, spent in a bad mood, emitting negative vibes, is precious time wasted. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?