This series on Ageing began with basically factual information, got more personal as I shared some of my moans about ageing, but now perhaps should come to an end.
It’s a common observation that whereas no one spoke freely about sex at one time (I am not sure when that was!), these days the forbidden subject is death. I think that prohibition – or embarrassment – may be less so than it was, say, forty years ago. However, much of the prevailing culture in the west originates amongst younger people for whom death is a distant prospect, and one so far into the future that for them it is not worth bothering about.
Older people can bother about it a great deal, and whereas the prevailing attitude towards death was once influenced by faith in an after-life, for many people that is no longer the case. Moreover the process of dying is now often prolonged by a medical culture that refuses to consider the moral argument for euthanasia. When we do think about our own ending we may be haunted by the thought of a life prolonged at the expense of all the faculties that make life worth living.
‘What happens after I die?’ may now be less important for many people than ‘Shall I manage my death?’
The BBC did a TV programme in March, hosted by Esther Ranzten which had the startling title ‘A Good Death’. It had been well researched, was full of personal anecdotes and as the name suggests, faced honestly the finality of death but saw it positively as something to prepare for. There is still a BBC page on the internet under the name of the programme that is worth looking at.
No one can be sure of how our life will end. The hardest thing about death for me will be parting from my beloved family. Of course I don’t know the circumstances in which that will happen, but when it does I hope that I shall die gladly and gratefully as I release them from any claim I may have on them, and leave them with my trust and love.
The past can look after itself. We can be calm about our unknown future. And live joyfully in the present.