To Live is to Die

We are living in a death-denying society. In simple terms, few people consider their own deaths. Death is seen as something we don’t talk about and we hope fervently it will never happen, either to ourselves or to people we love. We use our medical profession as “saviours” turning to them, with complete disregard to our lifestyle choices, expecting them to “fix” us.

The National Health Service is currently high on the list of topics being discussed by our “wannabe in charge” political leaders. The NHS is always an emotive subject and has been used and abused in the fight for power ever since it existed. The ideology of free health care for everyone was built on kind principles, but is it really in our best interests? We constantly complain of “nanny-state” politics, but what is more “nannying” than being shown onto the NHS treadmill of treatments, with no options for alternative health care. Alternatives which are ridiculed yet which many people find hugely beneficial – if they can afford them. The shift away from natural remedies to drugs is not based on the good of the people – it is based on profit for Big Pharma and control of the people.

So ask yourself this, “Why, as soon as I become ill, do I rush to the doctor?” It is now within our cultural psyche – that’s what we do, we believe there is no other option. And the root of that is fear. We are fearful. Somehow the belief has developed, undoubtedly encouraged by the medics themselves, that unless we follow a medical pathway, we are risking our health and we will die! That’s what we need to be looking at. The fact that we are mortal. Yes, we will all die – nobody gets out of life alive! Our modern world does everything it can to convince us that we can live forever, looking younger, having everything. But it’s not true! And while I still visit the doctor, I always have my mortality at the back of my mind when discussing any decisions about treatment I may or may not take.

I have seen doctors offer surgery to the very old and very ill that is unlikely to improve their quality of life (more likely the opposite), I have seen drips put up on dying people to prolong their lives, I have seen relatives begging medics to “do something” to stop their loved one from dying. None of it is pretty. Why are we so attached to our human bodies? Why do we fear death so much? Is it because we believe that’s all there is to us, so when we die, we’re “gone”? I believe it’s all linked up to a lack of belief in any other power higher than ourselves – we have a “spiritual hole” if you like. And into that hole goes all the nonsense of the world – money, greed, competition – in an effort to make ourselves feel better and “whole” again.

So my point is about accepting ourselves as mortal beings, whose bodies will die one day. It’s not easy – I always reference Damien Hurst’s artwork involving a shark suspended in formaldehyde; The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.

But at least we can acknowledge the truth that we will die, even if we can’t imagine it. And once we’ve done that, we can begin to plan. We can have discussions with our nearest and dearest, we can record our thoughts, choices and wishes in Wills, LPAs and Advance Decisions, we can inform ourselves about taking responsibility for our own good health, and we can live full lives, knowing that we’ve put in the groundwork for what happens at the end. There are no crystal balls, and control is an illusion, but by accepting my mortality I hope to have a graceful end when it comes. Only time will tell!

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