Unfortunately, there’s no “if” about dying – it’s just a matter of when. And if you think about it, is the alternative all that palatable? Does anyone truly want to go on living and living while the creases and wrinkles deepen, the eyesight weakens and the joints swell up with arthritis? Or maybe we’re all hoping that soon (and it best be very soon) there will be fantastic replacement surgery to be had, a bit like reconditioning an old car.
“Aah, Mrs Belfrage, how nice to see you again.” The young male nurse smiles down at me. I have to squint to make out his face, not all that certain I’ve met him before. But he did say “again”, right? I shuffle towards him, gripping the handles of my walking frame hard.
He helps me into the lavender coloured pod-shaped bed. I lie down, he takes off my slippers, my glasses, my rings, adjusts the hospital gown (sorry; no major development in that area, they’re as un-sexy then as they are now) and runs a scanner up my hips, nodding as he verifies that the implant numbers match his data.
“Well, off we go then, hmm?” he says when he’s done and then he presses a flashing red button and I’m thrilled to bits the anesthesia works this time round as well – not like for poor Clara who was AWAKE, let me tell you, totally AWAKE during the whole process.
Six hours later I wake when someone shines a light in my eye.
“Well, well, Mrs B has come back to us,” the enervatingly chirpy male nurse says. Come to think of it, now I notice he isn’t all that young and when I give him a thorough look-over I’m not that sure it’s a he to begin with. Looks more like a she with a dismal haircut, and really, someone should tell him/her fuchsia is NOT his/her colour. I swing my rejuvenated legs out of the bed, stand and stretch. “Everything in working order?” the nurse coos.
“I think so. But I…” I break off to try out a tennis serve. “The elbow is a bit sore,” I frown. I do some toe bouncing, a couple of knee bends and finish off by adopting one of the more complex yoga postures.
Once I’ve completed the paperwork, the nurse accompanies me to the door.
“See you in a decade or so,” I say in lieu of farewell.
“Oh no, Mrs B, no, no, no. You know the rules.” She/he wags a finger at me. “Three times each, Mrs B, and then its over.” She/he fluffs at his/her hair. “No, in ten years it will be me in the pod.” He/she titters and flutters ridiculously long eyelashes at me. I want to ram something hard and sharp into his/her gut – in my opinion a very natural reaction when you’ve just been told you’re set on the narrow path ending in DEATH.
So why this fear of death? After all, it does seem relatively straightforward: we ‘re born, we live, we die. No one seems to have any issues with the being born part, but maybe that’s because we have no memories of what must be a pretty drastic experience. Quite a few have a fear of life – sadly – but the vast majority just get on with it, enjoying parts of it, shouldering on through others. And as we get older we shove the dawning realisation of impending old age and – gulp, gulp, gulp – death away from us by saying stuff like “the sixties are the new forties”. Ultimately, it doesn’t help. One day the bell will toll for everyone of us, and we have no idea where we will end up or even if we end up somewhere.
Maybe it’s just a total blank once we’re dead. Or maybe it’s not. There’s no one to ask, and taking leaps into the unknown on faith alone sits uncomfortably with most of us – at least in this day and age. And if you ask me, it’s not the being dead that scares us, it’s the process of dying that has our bowels cramping. Make it painless, please. And quick – yes, very quick.
When I die (and that is of course like in fifty years from now) I hope it is in bed and that there is a window that can be opened so that I can register the scents and sounds of bustling, heaving life. I wouldn’t mind it there was a remnant of daylight, the soft golden glow of a Nordic summer twilight. And I want someone there to ease my passing, a hand to hold on to as I begin the final fall from life. As to where I’ll end up, I’m an optimist. All that vibrant energy contained in a human soul can’t just dissipate into nothing, so something must be waiting on the other side of the great divide. I hope it’s green, rolling meadows and fluffy white lambs. I wouldn’t mind an angel choir or two, and if someone can make sure there’s tea and cake to go with it, I’ll be in total heaven.
Life is a wonderful gift. Maybe the glory of living lies in the insight that one day it’ll all come to an end. And should there be nothing after death, then maybe my ashes will suffice to make a bluebell or two grow and bloom. That’s not too bad, is it?