Why Death Is Your Friend

Lancashire MoorA good friend is someone who will push you to do what’s right for you; that’s not always what you want to do. A good friend motivates you, inspires you, and reminds you to consider the bigger picture.

I dropped the Landrover off for a service this morning. The fog was burning away from the Lancashire moors, and air was still and crisp. I dragged my bike out and headed for home.

And paused. A six-mile whiz along a flat main road? Or turn right, not left, and head up onto Rooley Moor?

Today is the day. Today is the only day. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, whispered death. You have been laid low, so low you could not walk, and that might come again.

I turned right.

Why I Don’t Fear The Reaper

Now I sit here, legs like jelly and wet hair dripping from the shower. The sweaty kit is already in the washer. I don’t care what else the day throws at me because I have no regrets. I have grasped what the moment offered and when I go to bed tonight, I know I didn’t miss the opportunity and I won’t be wishing any what-ifs.

It hurt. Climbing that hill hurt my chest, ripped my throat, made my head spin and my stomach threaten to spew out my breakfast. These are sensations that I love because they remind me that I’m alive.

I am lucky, blessed beyond words to have had the chance today.

I am alive, you are alive. This is temporary. And it might end, any minute. It frustrates me that people don’t want to think about that, as if contemplating your own mortality might, in some superstitious way, hasten your passing. But a complete and full acceptance of your transience is the most useful thing you can to improve your daily happiness.

I’m not getting all Zen on you, and I’m not about to burble about rebirth or religion or any such matter.

Think about people who’ve been given a set time to live. It galvanises them into action: I have six months. I must visit France! Learn to sail! Buy a dog! But they are not so different to you or I. We, too, have a set time to live. We just don’t know it. But I urge you, you must live with the full knowledge that it will end.

Illness, Pain and Disease

Here we get to the core of it. Six years ago the crohn’s disease was winning. I was in and out of hospital, IV steroids making me into a flabby, weak balloon. Gastro-enteritis on top of a flare-up was just about the end. I don’t remember much of that particular 2 ½ week stay, except my blood pressure was down to 50/30 because of the internal haemorrhaging and the morphine didn’t even touch the pain.

A few more hospitalisations, and an operation, and here I am. It was the wake up call I needed. I suddenly realised that if life was a computer game, this was my bonus life and I had no idea how long it would last. Not just the crohn’s, of course. I might get hit by a bus this afternoon. The point is this: I am alive. And I’d never actually realised that before.

The Harsh Reality

We all die, and some will die young. Babies die, and children, and teenagers, and newlyweds, and these are so hard to bear.

I don’t believe there is a “reason” because that would imply another consciousness, some entity that had “caused” it. No amount of reasons in the world will convince a parent who’s lost a child that it’s okay.

So I am not smug in my alive-ness. Rather, I see it as an insult to those who died so young if I do not seize every chance to live. My purpose is to make those around me happy, and myself happy too. If I do not: what’s the point? There are billions of people around the world who would have loved the chance to live, to be happy, to experience the small things and the large, to feel joy and sadness and every damn sensation of being alive. If I don’t acknowledge death, and by extension from that then appreciate my life, I’m denying this great gift, this fleeting moment on this earth, and it’s mocking those who did acknowledge death because it came for them too soon.


PS. If you fancy cycling up a hill, for whatever reason, check out this free ebook from The Daily Cycle. :-) Enjoy your day!

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  1. #1 by Nick Bacon on September 27, 2011 - 11:35 am

    I absolutely agree with you, Autumn. Well, in terms of attitude to life and death, not necessarily towards strenuous physical exercise!

    As one who has survived a hurricane at sea, a burst cervical disc, being in the South Tower on 9/11 and a subsequent slight touch of the cancers, I am now firmly of the view that since I have absolutely no idea when it will be my turn to go then I should savor every day and wring every bit of enjoyment out of life.

    As I don’t believe in an afterlife, I don’t fear death itself – it’s just some of the methods of getting there that I’m not too sure about. The prospect of being kept alive artificially on a machine for an instant longer than it takes to find recipients for any useable offal and giblets terrifies me. I don’t fancy the idea of hanging around for ages being a dribbling, incontinent burden to my loved ones, so my card is marked DNR.

    If there were Pearly gates, I would much prefer to go through them at 70 mph with a blonde in one hand and a Martini in the other than all grey with tubes hanging out of me.

    Right, I’m off now to snap up today’s Groupon deal of a Horseback Trail Ride in New Jersey – to which I shall travel on my powerful motorcycle.

    As Geoffrey Rowe – better known as the Cornish comedian, Jethro, says: “If you live every day of your life as if it were going to be your last one on this earth, one day you will be right.”

    • #2 by autumnbarlow on September 27, 2011 - 11:40 am

      Thanks, Nick. When I talk to people about this attitude, I get two reactions. Many people are aghast; it’s a huge taboo. But people who’ve faced illness or, rather dramatically, death itself, understand completely. I just wish it people could realise that they are alive – without the pain and trauma of nearly losing it first!

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