Surely, one of the most comforting companions during one’s life is the knowledge that it does not last forever. It is one of a few truths that have stood the test of time.
One can safely hitch one’s horse on that post; and it would be a brave man who could ensure us that death is not inevitable and, that, with some luck we might get out of it alive! Many a time and many of us must have gone through some periods of gloom or clear sighted despair and fallen gratefully back on this knowledge, perhaps thinking, ‘ah well, it’s not going to last forever’.
This of course, when getting older, gives us the comfort and insight in accepting that this truth is unassailable and no one, so far, has ever escaped it. No matter how optimistic or positive our outlook on life, we all have to finally face that our stay here is limited. This then gives us the freedom, as this truth is getting closer, to finally give time to all the things one might still wish to do. For many it might also be a time in not doing much at all anymore, and just relax a little, have a nap, bingo arvos with the magic of the Friday night meat tray raffle at the local club or bending to bowl on the Saturdays or swinging the golf club for the more agile.
When I look at the statistics of the living, the over sixties are a formidable group to reckon with. The Government is worried sick about the sheer numbers queuing for future pensions. In fact, super contributions from employers have just been increased to 12 per cent to stave off a blow out in the cost for retirees.
Even burial places are now at such a premium, it has been suggested to utilise roads and footpaths below existing cemeteries to bury the dearly departed. I would not mind resting underneath Argyle Cut at The Rocks in Sydney or even underneath the stern looking Queen Victoria in front of that building with the same name, but would object to being underneath Parramatta Rd, in front of Lighting for You or Brides & Grooms. There are traffic grid-locks even after deaths.
There are of course now so many ways of getting life extended. All sorts of medical interventions are being encouraged and foisted on us to extend old age into a Methuselah’s like status. Blocked arteries, which in the normal course of life in old age would give relief and death a fair chance, are now a mere bagatelle. There are tiny balloons that ferret inside the blood arteries till it gets to the blockage and inflate, allowing the blockage to flow somewhere else. It’s almost par for course that we extend life to the very maximum. Nappies and pull-ups for the incontinent are no worries. Many problems of the aged are taken under the microscope and like magic; the industry is flat out providing all sorts of aids and gadgets to make ageing as comfortable and profitable as possible. Soon, the battery operated carriages, so popular around shopping centres will have their satellite navigation gadget, safely steering us between Bakers Delight and Bunnings . Bowel rumblings and the occasional bout of intestinal hurry are as acceptable as the more frequent lapse in remembering where all the public toilets might be situated.
Does it really matter that we live to 89 instead of 94? Many would argue that if life is enjoyable and still worthwhile, why not keep going. Indeed, why not? The problem is that life is lived on the day and not into the future. It’s just not possible to live tomorrow. As we are told by many gurus, all we have got is ‘now’,’ this moment.’ The other consoling factor is that when dead, you don’t or can’t regret to having carked it. It’s not as if you can then say, ‘oh I would just love to have gone once more to Gloria Jeans and got a cappuccino or have another one of those spine tingling colonoscopies at Concord Repatriation Hospital…’
No, after you cark it, and provided you have arranged for a nice little incineration, your remnants will probably be raked over by the metal detector for your gold teeth or platinum hip bone. The undertakers have strict instruction to share any handy little remnants of you with the ash and urn gatherers. This is understood as part of the job. After all, dressing Uncle Harvey with his gangrene leg and weeping bowels, in his best suit, does require some courage and strong constitution. Anyway, it is a nice little top up for the boys in the back room.
Of course in western society, more than anywhere we do our best and pretend dying doesn’t exist or if it does, we get it over with as unobtrusively as possible and keep it well hidden. The gasket glides into the fire without even a witness to the flames consuming our dearly departed. It is all so hygienic and sterile. We might have the benefit of a Bach’s hymn electronically bleeping away with a final Prelude and Fugue, but by and large we keep it all a bit mum and oh so discreet.
We don’t celebrate death the same as birth or even a marriage. No confetti or tins rattling at the back of the Zephyr Ute when on our final journey to Rookwood…
Of course, we ought to celebrate the event as much as a birth. Isn’t it a final reward for having lived a life?