Why dying matters: mortality, motivation and more tea

The trouble is, you think you have time - Buddha - by CancerGoddess
Background image from RGBStock - Water Lilies by Gramps


This week, 18th - 24th May, is Dying Matters Awareness Week. Perfect timing really, for it hit home last weekend that I have never really thought about dying, about my own imperfect mortality.

After all, it's not something you chat about with friends over a cup of tea - not here in bonny England, at least.

This may sound bizarre, but I truly have never consciously given much thought about my own mortality. I had fleeting moments of panic during chemotherapy, particularly when Taxotere and my body decided they'd had enough of playing nicely together, but that is the sum total.  

When I was diagnosed with cancer, it was the end of a long period of waiting. I'd known - with absolute certainty - that I was going to be diagnosed with cancer at some point in my life (a story I will share with you one day). My only surprise that I was so young! I was not yet a grandmamma, so "F**K YOU, Cancer. I have much work to be doing, you can just sod right off". It never entered my head that I could die of cancer; it was almost a sense of relief: OK, so now I have it. Let's deal with it and move on.

But recent events have left me reeling. Although you expect a cancer diagnosis in your close circle to ruffle feathers and emotions, I knew my own feelings were a sure sign I need to dig deeper much closer to home - I had to dig deep and find out what was going on with Me. 

Whilst reading Dying Matters Coalition's latest newsletter, their article Brits failing to talk about dying really hit home:
Only 35% of the public say they have written a Will; 32% that they have registered as an organ donor or have a donor card; 31% that they have taken out life insurance; 27% that they have talked to someone about their funeral wishes and 7% that they have written down their wishes or preferences about their future care, should they be unable to make decisions for themselves.
I feel very ashamed to share here that I have not yet written a will.

Neither do I have life insurance. 

I do not carry a donor card, but I can gloss over that because after cancer you cannot be a donor (apparently: please enlighten me if I have been misinformed). 

I have never talked with anyone, much less my Beloved or my son, about my funeral wishes, other than a passing reference to a scary poem in an old Misty magazine (circa late 1970s) which put me off being buried. Yuk. I can still remember it now. 

I have yet to write down my wishes for my sending-off party, or create a Living Will.

Judging by the findings of National Council for Palliative Care – Public Opinion on Death and Dying, I am far from alone.

The whole purpose of creating Cancer Goddess is that, over time, I wish to be able to help eradicate fear surrounding Cancer. A big wish, I know.

But part of the fear which emanates from the word 'Cancer' surely has to be about facing our own mortality. For there is one thing, and one thing ONLY, that is certain in this life - we will all eventually slip out of our human body, and away from what we know as 'Life'. 

The trouble is, you think you have time - Buddha

Always a spiritual nomad, I have - since my own diagnosis and treatment - become more and more drawn to Buddhist principles and practices.  In  'Living in the Light of Death', Larry Rosenberg shares the following:  
  1. Everyone must die
  2. The remainder of our life span is decreasing continually
  3. Death will come regardless of whether or not we have made time to practice the dharma
  4. Human life expectancy is uncertain
  5. There are many causes of death
  6. The human Body is very fragile
  7. Our wealth cannot help us
  8. Our loved ones cannot help
  9. Our body cannot help

Rather than see this list and feel overwhelmed by sadness, I personally find it spiritually uplifting.

There is a sense of freedom in that if we live our lives well, with compassion and care for others and fully embrace each moment of each day, no matter if the moment is joyful or painful, e.g., we can live our lives fully with equanimity.

This does not - I hasten to add - absolve my irresponsible attitude to writing wills (ahem!), but it does give me strength when I find myself in a state of avoidance about my own mortality, my own life-span and my wishes, hopes, dreams for the future of myself and my family.

This is why dying matters: for my family's sake, I need to sit with that stillness within me and face my own demons. I need to face my mortality, using that as motivation to be clear as to my own wishes once my time to move to the Summerlands is here, and chat over more tea with my loved ones and close spiritual advisors, so that my legacy will be one of regal passing, rather than stress and upsets over 'the right thing' because I haven't left clear instructions.

One thing has always been clear 'tho: my sending-off party will be a colourful event, with gallons of tea, beautiful fine bone china and an abundance of delicious cakes. How glorious an event that will be - but not for a few decades to come, of that I am sure.

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  1. I don't think its the fact that its hard to create those things, but its the thinking about not being here is the hard part. I know what I would like to have done, but my situation is a little different because if I pass I will not get my way unless people fight for what I want. And I don't see that happening. I just worry about my daughter. Everything else is just material things... I just want her to be supported until she can take care of herself.

    I am a donor woot woot...

    Its hard to think about the bad stuff. I love this post. It is good topic that everyone should have to think about!

    1. "its the thinking about not being here is the hard part" - yes, Michelle, spot on! Bless you, thank for sharing your thoughts - and well done on being a donor! xx

  2. We feel we should have a will now that our daughter is born, but haven't yet done it because it just seems no one is worthy of our trust to raise her if something happened to us...

    1. Oh honey, that makes me feel so sad - and yes, I can empathise with you entirely ((( Hugs ))) may you uncover what you seek x