So I’m doing this Fresh Horses link up post thingo because I read Edenland and she said I should. And I just want to. The question posed is around death and dying. Specifically, what is my funeral song, do I think about death, and am I totally petrified of it? I’m going to attempt to answer, in my own unique round-about way.
Funeral song: well I once had this discussion with a uni friend of mine (a guy), and he said his would be Dire Straits Brothers in Arms, which I thought was an absolutely kick arse choice. I mean, what a cracking song, up there with their very best stuff, and it’s so emotive! It’s perfect, except it’s a guy song. Makes no sense for chicks. I am a massive fan of Tori Amos, have been for about 15 years now, and I have pretty much everything she’s ever produced. So there are quite a few of her numbers I’d think about having as a funeral song. Maybe Toast is a good one, makes me think of remembering someone after they’ve died. But actually I think Bjork’s Unravel would be a freaking awesome funeral song.
Do I think about death and dying? Yeah, I do. I have been lucky as I haven’t known a lot of people close to me who’ve died. And I have a very philosophical view of it all in that I believe it’s part of a greater cycle. I don’t think it’s ‘the end’, I think it’s the beginning, a transition. When I gave birth to my son, I knew exactly what people were talking about when they likened birth to death. It’s that transition from one state to the next. And I actually believe in reincarnation, so although I wouldn’t live life to anything but the fullest, I know it’s all part of the journey, a greater journey.
The other night I was telling Mr Chewbacca about how I held my dog Pickles while she slipped away and he was pretty freaked out. I think I would have been when I was younger too, but at the time it was exactly what needed to happen and I found it a really spiritual experience, emotionally mind-blowing, if that’s not too much of a contradiction in terms (no, that’s not the right phrase, you know what I mean – emotions, mind, the opposite of each other, you know? Meh, doesn’t matter). We acquired Pickles when my mum dropped her keys by the car in the Woolies carpark and this puppy leapt into her lap. I was 13 and begged to keep her, as you do. Turned out she wasn’t wanted anyway, so we kept her, and she was a wonderful bitsa dog, tough and boistress, but so loving and sweet and loyal. She must have been about 16 when she was ready to go. Her legs became arthritic to the point where she really couldn’t hold herself up any more and one day she just didn’t want to eat and drink, she was over it. We looked into her eyes and we knew, she wanted out. It’s bizarre, isn’t it, that we can just do that with animals, help them slip away peacefully, but we can’t with people, even though people can articulate clearly that they are ready to die. We took her to one of those 24 hour emergency vets, as it was a Sunday. Just my mum and me, as it was when she arrived on the scene. The vet looked her over and agreed with what we thought, she was ready to leave us. I can’t quite recall the specific reasoning behind it, there were some medical problems, but suffice it to say we agreed to give her the injection. My mum was actually a little more emotional than I was for a change, which was odd because every other time we’d had to deal with the death of a family pet, I’d been the one totally freaked out and refusing to be involved. When our cat Halley died I was about 16 and refused to even go down to the grave site, so my parents buried him together, despite hating each others guts at the time. When our dog Jessie died, at the ripe old age of 16, I was 21 and I couldn’t look. I did go down and stand with my back to the grave my parents yet again dug together, but that was as far as I would go.
This time, with Pickles, I wanted to be with her all the way. I held her paw and stroked her head and ears as we looked into her eyes one last time and knew we were doing absolutely the right thing. As the injection went in, I felt her relax, so gratefully and gracefully, and her body went limp ever so slowly. A wee spread out across the table she was lying on and we knew that was it. But as I held her paw and stroked her head, I could feel that although she was technically dead, her body was still full of life force. Her spirit was strong and present, and it would be a while before it would go away completely. I understood then completely why many traditions observe the 40 day mourning period and have another funeral service about 6 weeks after the death, to mark the final departure of the soul from the earth. It makes sense. I think this is how it happens.
So in answer to the final question, no, I’m not terrified. I’m terrified of ghosts though. For some bizarre reason, I am completely and utterly freaked out by the idea of ghosts hanging around and coming to find me and be near me. Every time I knew anyone who died, animals included, I’d sleep with the light on for months. When my grandmother died I was so scared, I couldn’t sleep properly for ages thinking for sure she’d come back to say goodbye to me. I think it’s because I believe in ghosts. My mum always tells the story of when her father died, in 1980, so I was not quite 2 years old. She was in bed, with me sleeping next to her, and my dad had gone out to the living room to sleep on the couch, as he usually did when I was in the bed because my breathing was too noisy and kept him awake. She heard someone coming into the room and immediately assumed it was my dad and thought, ‘I hope he doesn’t wake the baby’. But then she heard my dad’s snore echoing down the hall. And at the same time she felt that whoever was there definitely wasn’t my dad. She knew it was her dad, come to say goodbye. She felt him there, even glimpsed something out of the corner of her eye. And then he was gone.
My best friend once told me about how she woke up in the middle of the night and saw her dead grandfather standing in the doorway of her room! She was about eight at the time. It was so scary she just jumped up and ran through the spectre and upstairs to her parents’ room. That story always freaked me out big time.
But I’m not sure that I’m too afraid of dying myself. I never once thought about it while giving birth, even though it was such a full on mammoth thing and I thought I might never get through it at many points. I’m afraid of a lot of stuff, wary I guess you could say. I would never go bungee jumping or sky diving, just wouldn’t ever do it, doesn’t interest me, makes me feel sick. I don’t get off on adrenaline, and I wouldn’t consider having overcome my fears as an achievement. In fact I think even if by some miracle I did go sky diving, I wouldn’t overcome my fears, I’d just realise why I never wanted to do it in the first place. So I guess I’m scared of activities that involve risk of death. But the actual act of dying, the process, the happening, I’m not too afraid of that. It comes back to this whole destiny belief that I have. I think death, like birth, illness, addiction, accidents, tragedies, life in general, is not arbitrary and not random. I believe in synchronicity. It might sound clichéd but it’s what makes sense in my head. So when someone dies, it may seem hopeless, pointless, horrific, but it happened because people needed to learn, and that was the only way. I’ d never say that to someone who had just lost someone dear to them, but I do truly believe it.
Check out Fresh Horses over at Edenland to see what others have chosen as their funeral songs. I’m sure their posts aren’t frigging 1500 words either, so happy reading! Oh and is it just me being a total dufus nerd freakazoid, but does anyone else think of Blackadder in the context of ‘fresh horses’?