May 12, 2008


none of us will get out of this thing alive
I assume that it is a result of my own age rather than some sort of chronological or environmental phenomenon, but I seem to be going to a lot of hospital visitations and memorial services these days. Not surprisingly, this causes me to spend time thinking about my own mortality and that of the people around me. It seems to be coming up in conversation as I share these thoughts and concerns with friends who are experiencing grief or dealing with mortality in their own ways. Life is full of dualities and apparently death is too, as I have come across two completely different outlooks in recent days that are both unconnected to the two services I will attend this week.
I encountered one viewpoint over lunch with a friend of several years, who is busy being the parent to one of his own parents, who is aging and in need of 24/7 care. While putting his father's affairs in order, he naturally began to consider his own mortality and what he would like to see happen when he, himself leaves this mortal coil. I was a little surprised to learn that he had met with his daughter and informed her that he wanted no memorial service, no obituary and no notice paid to his passing. No opportunity for his family and friends to pay their respects and share their feelings.
Over the weekend, I came across a different point of view when a work colleague of someone whose mother-in-law had just passed away, took an entirely unique perspective to his own funeral service. He was a successful local businessman with a rich sense of humour who had been given the "cancer" word for the first time, six days prior to his demise. Rather than suffer through chemotherapy that would have had the same results without the quality, he chose to go home and spend his remaining time with his family for the few days left him. He inspired his daughter to write a humourous obituary inviting family and friends to a service that would include door prizes for all of the attendees - so that they might remember who he really was.
I was a little churlish in my response to my friend when I observed that he wished to leave no evidence of his having been here. Everyone has a right to live and leave in a manner that best suits them but I certainly appreciate the way the second person is moving on. In my own case, I think I would prefer a party with lots of food and music and a good bottle of wine or single malt scotch to the person who tells the funniest story, using me as the butt of the humour.

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