Pandemic diary 54: Confronting death pt 1

A nice cheery photo of the big blue bush in full bloom, part of nature's life-death-life cycle.

Obviously I've thought about the possibility of dying imminently. (Who hasn't recently?) I thought about it quite a lot early on in the anxiety-ridden early days of Covid-19, but less so as the so-called 'new normal' re-established itself. Being able to stay in full lockdown mostly put me out of harm's way and made me feel both safe and grateful to others who did have to go to work to fight this thing.

But I've been thinking about it again since hearing about the 30 and 41-year-old women, a midwife and mental health nurse, who died in my local Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Trust on Wednesday (BBC story here). So young. At risk daily from working on the frontline and caring for others. Possible victims of the lack of PPE, perhaps.

It's the premature nature of these deaths that is upsetting. The unfulfilled life, where children are left behind or perhaps not yet born. The chance to grow and develop and achieve your full potential as a human being. The chance to get your 'four score years and ten' as hoped for. Or simply to be present in the lives of others.

There are many ways to think about the end, I guess: philosophically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, practically. Normally I try not to think about it. But under the current situation, I have occasionally found myself wondering: 'What if I only had a month left?'

I moved away from my religious upbringing around the early 90s, and actually, weirdly, this helped me to accept death as a final ending. To me, we are animals like any other: we are born, bloom, reproduce, wither and die. To me, you get one life to live so live it accordingly. Death is the big sleep so that someone or something else can live.

Lately I've thought the worst thing was not having enough time in my life to do all the things I wanted to do and figure out this thing called life. I realised this through my fear of flying when I'd be terrified on the way out that we might crash, but relatively chilled on the way home because I HAD LIVED.

As I get older I feel this fear of lack of time dissipating somewhat. Stealing some future retirement time (the 2016 sabbatical) gave me the time to catch up on lots of things I'd been dreaming of doing but couldn't because of the daily grind.

But I'm getting off track. This is not a philosophical/spiritual post; that was supposed to be for 'pt 2'. I'm both an emotional and practical person. Today I did something practical to confront death, should it happen. That's what I really wanted to write about here.

I wrote out a list of where all my important documents are, for my executor, in the event of my death. There are 14 points on the list from where my will and birth certificate is, to how to access my online accounts, to a list of assets and liabilities, to a preferred humanist celebrant/funeral director.

I emailed this to the executor and two others.

I feel an enormous sense of relief that I don't have to think about it anymore.

Thanks

Today I am grateful for having got to my 50s. I've been lucky to have this much time. If I do go in the Covid-19 pandemic, I'm ok with that, as much as one can be. I appreciate everything life has given me, and our planet's wonders and only wish that we as a human race would take care of it more. I feel lucky to have people around me that I love and love me back. Travelling may not be a thing of the future, for obvious reasons, but it's has been one of my greatest joys and made me a better person.

I'm also grateful for a new deeper connection to nature that this lockdown has given me. Spending so much time in the garden has made me more curious than usual. I could barely name any birds or trees before this but my interest has grown.

I'll end on a screenshot of my favourite daily, open-bookmarked, blue tit web cam. Sadly the runt of the nest died today, swiftly removed by the mother for the health of the rest – nature is brutal as much as beautiful. But the other seven are thriving and growing every day and exploding into a bunch of yellow mouths whenever they hear a parent return. Here they are ready for their Bug Deliveroo.

Feed me, Seymour!

Commission/hire me: fiona [at] fionacullinan.com


3 thoughts on “Pandemic diary 54: Confronting death pt 1”

  1. Thanks Fi. This has to be the hardest topic to talk about, hasn’t it?

    And certainly food for thought. I wonder why it is such a relief to do the paperwork and admin around one’s ending? Handing over of responsibility for one’s life? Clearing one’s head to live more fully?

    (Either way, a difficult and courageous thing to do. Bet you had a glass afterwards!)

  2. A good thing to do, although stressful. Matthew and I gave each other our important passwords and I have forced him to know my thoughts on how far to treat me if I get it (I am so so so glad of my friend Gill who has calmed my terror of being tracheostomised).

    Lovely to hear about your connection to nature. I thank my lucky stars that I already knew getting out into trees and birdsong helped me a lot, through experience and through materials I've studied as an England Athletics Mental Health Champion.

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