Saturday, May 20, 2017



A wise man and my mother said, “In this life you can be certain of one thing – we all die”.
Benjamin Franklin added ‘taxes’ to that quote.

Since that is the case why do we see death as a finishing line? One where others judge us on our deathbed? Are we around to hear the words “He lived an exemplary life” (when in reality he wanted to run off with the scrubber next door and do drugs); or “She gave her life taking care of others” (when in reality she didn’t have the courage to travel the world with a rucksack and no internet connection). At the end of this faultless existence do we get a badge?

Sometimes it takes death to give us life. To make us understand we should be living it fully and not making sure we stay on the straight white lines of banality. Should we always look towards a future we have not lived, planning for a retirement we may not have, forgetting we have a present to revel in? It is the present that decides our future and if we continue along the path of pointlessness that will also become our future. I’m not talking about finding the cure for Ebola or inventing a gadget we all need. It’s about living, loving, enjoying the moment. It is also not about hedonism and recklessness. It is about the balance of the soul, not the pocket.

Perhaps losing someone is the ultimate gift they give you. Sometimes death sets you free of fear especially if you lose a part of yourself – a partner you never thought you could live without, a beloved parent or worse yet, a child.  Do you know there is no word, in any language that labels a parent who has lost a child? Is the thought so horrendous that no one came up with one?

When your partner dies you are a widow or widower. The moment you utter that word you elicit warm feelings of compassion, a response that even suggests you may find someone else to love.
When you lose a parent you are motherless or fatherless. When you lose both, you are an orphan. This word is a scar you carry and others acknowledge your loss with sympathy.
But the loss of your child has no name and therefore you can’t distance yourself from the tragedy. You can’t mention a label that contains the full understanding of your bereavement. Thus telling others can be long and protracted for it is not something that is easily dropped into a conversation. Others may well reel in horror, and rightly so for it is a death that never stops tearing on the inside ensuring wounds that never heal. And so you may well hide that information from others, making it a secret and then feel the guilt of not acknowledging someone who was an essential part of you.

Many take to loss with morbid enthusiasm, diving into drink and loneliness. Others rise like Phoenixes to live two lives (their own and the dead).

Perhaps to live a life fully one must lose a part of oneself? Perhaps only then we can fully appreciate ‘the moment’. Perhaps then we can understand that there is no life unless it involves laughter and love. Perhaps then we can ignore the fears of a dodgy retirement plan or accept living in a rut is ‘the bed we made’.

But I know this. My life has not been exemplary. It is pitted with mistakes. If I were to stand before the puritanical God(s) I would not gain access to their ‘cloud’. But I do know this I have loved greatly, lost massively, laughed loudly and dreamed without borders. And when I die they can label me selfish, hedonistic and wild. I will not care because I’ll be dead and with my last breath I will know I have lived, truly lived, well enough to free my soul.

At least Lord Byron would be proud of me.

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