Monday, 5 May 2014

Living in the Face of Death

I see a new perception of death and dying arising.

Maybe 'new' isn't the correct word. Maybe what's arising is a process of retrieving what we lost some time ago.

We've become accustomed to pushing death under the carpet. We've come full circle because many of us are now tripping over it, and during our fall we see that it would've done us good to talk about it before we land six feet under.

As I've mentioned in a previous post, Death Cafes are on the rise. The one that I was fortunate to be a part of was a success. It felt great to stand back and observe strangers talking to strangers about something that is somewhat strange to talk openly about - death and dying.

I recently read an article in the Independent about the comedian Billy Connolly and how he's looking for a way to add comical value to his burial plot. He's thinking of putting touch-sensitive pads on his site, so when people stand on them it triggers a recording of his voice, saying something like, 'You're standing on my balls!'

Read the full article here.

Years ago I watched a documentary about a boy called Jon Kennedy who had a degenerative disease. It was very moving - but inspiring. He had a great attitude to death which positively affected the way he lived his life. Carved into his coffin he wanted a tin of baked beans. When asked why, he said he liked the idea of people looking at his coffin and saying, 'Why is there a tin of baked beans on the coffin?'

Spike Milligan's headstone is famous for saying the epitaph, 'I told you I was ill'.

How great is that!

Another reason why I believe that the way we perceive death and dying is adapting and evolving, is because of another article that was brought to my attention about a death doula. (A doula is another name for a midwife).

The article appeared in The Guardian. The 'death doula' is Rebecca Green from the UK. 

She was asked what she feels about her own mortality and she says wisely: "Death doesn't scare me because I don't know what it is. I suppose I'm saying that the unknown doesn't scare me. I find the idea that one day I won't be here any more strange and impossible to imagine. But it's also a fact that I haven't always been here – I only got here in 1969. Where was I in 1968, or 1945? I have no idea. It makes me smile to think of this." 

This is what the philosopher Alan Watts meant when he said that to think of where we will go when we die is like trying to think where we were before we were born. 

Ultimately, it's the same place. Life as we know it then feels like somewhat of a blip in the midst of eternity.

You can read The Guardian article about the death doula here. I highly recommend that you do.

At the weekend I was told about the work of the photographer Rankin and about his exhibition called Alive: In the Face Of Death. He presented portraits of people who were dying. It's beautiful. Unfortunately the exhibition was last year, but there's still quite a bit about it on the net that you can read; here for instance.

Also, look at the tremendous work of Felicity Warner, the founder of Soul Midwives

Look at the amazing Dying Matters

Can you see the bigger picture unfolding around us? 

Can you see that we're slowly changing our perception of death and seeing it as inseparable from life?

Can you see that this is the way we are heading?

Having a healthier view of death affects our view of life. Our way of dying affects out way of living.

He who makes an enemy out of death, is not on the best terms with his life.

One last thing:

Where were you one year before you were born?

...thought so.