I’ve been thinking a lot lately about death, beacon of joy that I am. I think I’ve been thinking so much about it because I’ve been trying not to.
It’s not so much that I’m afraid of death. In fact, short of being forced to wear a Manchester United shirt, there isn’t much that I can say scares me. But there are several corollaries of death’s truth that always prey on my mind.
I’ve never lost anyone close to me. The closest person I’ve lost is the family dog back in 2002. That was bad enough. I’ve been to funerals before. I hate them. Remembering someone’s life always seems a hollow thing to say on a day like that, because you can taste the despair in the atmosphere.
What will it be like when my family dies? And my friends? How will I cope? Will I have to be strong and take care of people, or will I need to be carried myself? And what of my own end? Will I look back with regrets? Will I be alone? Will I be able to say that I lived a good and happy life?
I hate death.
I hate other people’s death. I wish I could save everyone. I wish I could cure the world’s ills. I wish we never had to experience the bitter taste of death. It never seems fair.
Here’s the irony: death is the reason we’re alive. If there was no food-chain, no accidents, no pain, no death – we would not be here.
Almost everyone has heard the term “natural selection”. It basically works like this: if there is some advantage that can be gained from one group/gene/species over another, however slight, which will aid reproduction, nature will select for that gene, (and ultimately the group and species) at the expense of the other.
In a world without death, there would be no forced selection because it wouldn’t matter how anyone did anything. Evolution wouldn’t get anywhere.
Thousands of years of suffering, disease and death have given us immunities to disease; have taught us how read, write, teach, build, split the atom, land on the moon, land craft on Mars, look back through time at the Big Bang itself. It is our mortality that is the driving force behind our success. The fierce, uncaring, heartless, and bitter world that we live in, and the selfish nonchalance of Mother Nature have developed a primitive species of bipedal primates into homo-sapiens. We got here on our own; we have no one to thank.
No one wants to die. Any species that was blasé about its own survival would always be inferior to a species that cared more. And that species would always be outfought/out-procreated by a species that wanted to live that little bit more; evolution has bred a fight for survival into all animals so fierce that life is clung onto until the last. We don’t see in animals necessarily a stubborn brave resilience to the end – it’s just that animals without that would always be disadvantaged.
But perhaps this is where humans are unique: we know we’re going to die. We can contemplate our own mortality and that of others. It’s not a pretty thought. It’s not pleasant. And it keeps me awake at night sometimes. My mind is riddled with doubts and fears – but not of death itself. You see, because humans can override their instinct, and because we are aware of our fate, we can do something about it. We can’t avoid our ultimately timely demise, but we can help by being healthy. We can enjoy life. We can enjoy our friends and family whilst we are all together. My fear is of not doing anything with my life; of wasting it.
Imagine that a doctor told you that you had a disease: you have five years to live. What would you do in those five years? Or, what wouldn’t you do?? If it was me, I’d go ask that girl out I’ve liked for ages – I’d travel the world. See some sights. No holds barred – live it up – spend as much time with loved ones as possible – patch up any stupid disagreements and quarrels – make a lot of friends – maybe try and leave some kind of legacy on this world – maybe try and help others like me.
Guess what? You are dying. We all have a disease, and it’s called death. It might not be five years away, but the truth is, you don’t know how long you’ve got. We live in a bottle: wide and spacious at the bottom; at the start, and a narrowing bottleneck at the end. None of us can escape it.
I think a lot of people who know they don’t have much time left lose a lot of inhibitions because of that short time; because they have nothing to lose. Well, in a way, the same goes for all of us anyway. Apart from saving face or ego, what do we have to lose really?
Death is nothing to be afraid of.
The only thing to fear is wasting your time and taking your friends and family for granted. So when my timely demise arrives, I really hope I can say no regrets.