Those of you who follow me elsewhere on the internet will know that my best friend of nearly 30 yrs was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer a couple of months ago. If his GP had been on her mettle and referred him to a specialist months before, then it may well not have been a terminal diagnosis but that is a matter for another time & place.
There isn't a day when I don't think of him, we have lived, loved, laughed and cried together, we have had others try to keep us apart but all to no avail. He describes me as "his brains" - paperwork lands in my lap & for me, he is my "kick up the backside". When we need an "other" at a social or family good or bad, we are there for each other. He is far from gone yet but oh what a huge hole will he leave in my life when he is no longer at the end of a phone or there for a hug or just to share a coffee and companionable silence.
That, however, is not why I feel compelled to put fingers to keyboard....what I find increasingly difficult to handle is how blinkered our society is to its own mortality.
You are clearly not supposed to discuss death or terminal illness in public. It is completely absurd how people talk round it, pretend you didn't mention it or utter platitudes which can sound insincere no matter how well meant. It is also noticeable how many "friends" vanish into the background and don't visit, just at the time when the support of a good friend really counts.
We will all die, so why are we so uncomfortable talking about it? I am not being brave about this at all as has been said by several people.Far from it, I just promised myself at the start of this journey I wouldn't cry in front of my friend. Crying is for when I'm alone, we all have to make the most of the time he has left and that should be filled with as much laughter as we can muster. I am angry about the incompetence that has got us to this point but that too, is not for now, there will be time enough for dealing with that when my friend is no longer here. For now we have a will to write, a funeral to plan, paperwork to sort out and in between, making every moment count.
I have already learned so much and am sure more will be learned before this is done. Prior to my friend's illness I hadn't had the good fortune to visit a hospice, although I have lost several friends to cancer. I have found the LOROS hospice to be a place of great peace and positivity. I know another friend has already become a fundraiser for them and I can well understand why.They do such a wonderful job both in supporting my friend and his family and will no doubt play a bigger part in the time to come.
I have come to the conclusion that everyone should write a will, even if it's only to leave our stamp collection to the cats home! If we did, then the government would not benefit to the tune of several million pounds a year, those assets would go to friends, family, charities, places they would matter, instead of disappearing into the void that is the government coffers.
I also think we should give thought to planning & if possible paying for our funeral instead of leaving it for others to arrange at a time when there is already much distress. A funeral should be a celebration of a life so why not plan it the same as other celebrations such as weddings, anniversaries, notable birthdays? It is, after all just another step along the path. Funeral director's will provide quotes for their various services, there are websites which explain the do's & don't's, the legal requirements - no different to planning any other family event, yet there seems a great reluctance to do so. At least if you plan your own funeral, you will get what you want, not what others think you "should have".
Several years ago a friend of mine in the village committed suicide and I was the one who initiated raising the alarm. People kept telling me how I'd done a really good thing. I hadn't at all. If I had realised how bad things were with him and he was still here then that would have been a good thing. Others suspected what had happened but hadn't put thought into deed... once again death was involved and once again no one wanted to think about it.
I'm not saying count down the days til you are in the cemetery, just acknowledge mortality. Talk about it, make it normal, which it is and not the "elephant in the room" it has become. Live life for the moment. Thankfully, no one knows how long their life will be & we must accept that we won't all make it to our 90's but as long as we have made the most of our time, that's what matters.
Websites I have found useful
Natural Death Centre