When Faced with Mortality

It is another of those times where I am forced into introspection, where I need to step back and think, and in this case quite literally, about the meaning of life. Not just generally, but specifically, about a life and my life. My grandfather passed away on Friday morning after six years of a real depletion of quality of life due to a stroke. In many ways it is a relief for him and for my gran who has selflessly cared for him everyday, an act that has truly aged her too.

My grandparents had been married for 53 years and my grandfather died in peace in the home he built himself close-on 60 years ago, with my gran by his side. Considering his physical state and age, that can be the best way to go, particularly for him, a simple and traditional man. It was heart wrenching watching my gran say good-bye to him. He really has been all she has ever known. They met when she was 20, married two years later and had four children together. Her every waking hour for the last 53 years has been primarily focused on providing for him and seeing her in their home quite alone and old was a stark reality for me to take in.

One thing that really stuck with me was something quite contradictory to what we are told and that is that life is long. Our youth may be short, but when you start examining the life of someone 84 years long, you begin to comprehend time. Life also gets particularly longer in old age, and if you are ill or don’t have anything to fill your days with, time must be torturous. Seeing my grandparents’ life over the last few years has forced me, despite being in my 20s, really start preparing now for those years because I certainly don’t want to be sitting in my house waiting to die. It also got me thinking about my time now and if I am doing enough for my own selfish happiness, if I am spending my time in the best manner possible in these younger energetic years. I am sure there are things both my grandparents wish they had done, perhaps living in a different city, maybe being a little less frugal, delayed having children. I am going to assume they felt that way and do it for them anyway.

I also assume it is natural, but I felt myself slipping into the spiritual and had to force myself to come back to reason when thinking of my grandfather’s passing. I guess when you lose someone the thought of being able to see them again “on the other side” is comforting but I found it much more comforting to think about it truly being the end. Our brain deals with situations through learned responses and when our only frame of reference to death is one we have learned from religion, it gets hazy. The more you think about death, and in particular your own death, the easier it become to deal with. My experience of losing my younger sister a few years ago was a vastly different emotional experience. Yes, in her case it was a sudden and unreasonable death. At ten years old, she had hardly experienced life at all. Dealing with the loss of her knocked me but it was also incredibly formative and forced a realization of my own mortality. It is a terrible frame of reference to build but it is a crucial one.

This is the first of my four grandparents to have died so in the next few years I will be faced with losing another three all with different lessons to take away from their lives. I can only hope that they go just as peacefully and satisfied.

In Rememberance of Edgar Ronald Ross Farnham 13.10.1929 – 10.10.2014

Image Source : image taken in Alice Springs, my grandfather’s Australian home town