Memento Mori

When I was training as a dramatherapist in the 90’s,  and studying Carl Jung’s work on symbols, I became interested in Tarot.  Using the first 22 cards, the Major Arcana, representing the journey of life, starting with The Fool and culminating in The World, I studied the images as a means of reflecting on my life. From time to time I still draw a card as a way of exploring my current situation and my feelings about it. This week’s is Death, portrayed as a dancing skeleton. Beneath the bony feet, in the moving sea of transition, are green shoots of new growth. Rather than depicting the end of life, it shows the start of a new cycle.  It can represent change, a move from one life stage to another. That’s the way I usually interpret it, but this time, death itself seems to be on my mind.  I read obituaries, check the ages – my age, younger?

My generation, baby-boomers, fans of the Who (‘hope I die before I get old’) saw ourselves as ageless. Now we are old, with a finite lifespan.   More years lived than still to live.   As Terry Pratchett said, So much universe, and so little time. A close friend will turn 70 soon.  Together we’ve been through having children, major life events, loss of parents. We live in different continents but keep in touch, planning another visit….thinking now we shouldn’t put it off. Looking back at old photos, I can’t believe 20, 30, 40 years have passed so quickly. 
The other day I came across this website (sponsored by Sun Life)  www.myperfectsendoff.co.uk  It’s a questionnaire in which you answer questions about funeral choices.  I found it made me think about my own death in quite a positive way. I plan to complete it (or something like it) and make sure my family know about it.  I heard a beautiful Scottish tune the other night, The Gentle Air that Wakes me, and added it to my ultimate playlist along with Bob Dylan’s Forever Young.
Perhaps I will have many years beyond my approaching three score and ten, in which case there is no pressing need for my detailed plan, but it is good to be prepared. I like this line from Pratchett’s Good Omens:

DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING, says Death, JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.

If life is a social function which one attends for a while, mine has featured fun with friends from different parts of my life, good food, nice wine, doing quite a few party pieces (singing, acting), enjoying being with the people I love.  Being aware of death makes life more significant.  The moments that make up our days are special, however trivial. My little grandson’s latest word, ‘lorry’, his first haircut, a really good cup of coffee, the last flowers in the garden, putting on my slippers, some liquorice allsorts for later, are some of today’s small pleasures.   
What do you think? Should we think more about our inevitable deaths and plan accordingly? Can ageing be a positive experience? Share your thoughts by emailing me directly or leave a comment in the box below.

 

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