Death comes to us all. I’m not looking forward to it, but such is life. We have all faced death a few times in our lives. Each time we underwent anaesthetic we experienced a little death. While under the drug we turned our head away and became oblivious to anything and everything. When we awoke we were in a different room, had no memory, or sensation, of what had happened between rooms – nothing. When the final end does come, we will turn our heads away. But we won’t wake up. It’s as simple as that. Nothing to worry about.
Some of us have faith in a life after death. But faith itself is something to which people aspire, but probably never attain. To be certain of an after-life is to deny the value of faith.
Life produces many regrets. Many old people feel to have shirked their promises of life. I have a worry of arriving at the Day of Judgement to hear my CV read out to the assembled millions. The angelic reader will proclaim: “We gave him the talents to be a great poet, a great playwright and novelist. Instead, he wrote the staff-newsletter – usually a few days late.” I will then cringe in shame confronted by the power-point revelation of years wasted in worthless pursuits.
There will be so many intricate stories left unwritten; wonderful biographies such as that of my paternal grandmother, not even started. So much stuff chucked to the ether. So many bits and pieces left only in the hang-around memories of sometime listeners.
My son Tom has my Will. I am ashamed it contains so little of any value. I was never much of a hoarder.
What to do with the body? Please; a simple cremation in a cardboard coffin – covered by the Eureka flag. Later on, everyone can gather for a wake of songs, verse, stories and a few pipe tunes – even if it takes a couple of days.
Luisa will be left with all the bits and pieces of an unfinished life. All the books I had trouble trying to read. She knows it was easier for me to write than to read.
In recent years, only Luisa knew that I was virtually illiterate. She pushed me and bullied me, to keep writing. If any of my stories have moved anyone over the past years, most of the praise must go to her. She understood the value of my work with FAO, my working with illiterate campesinos, in the oral tradition through 13-Third-World countries. She enjoyed most of my storytelling ventures, but most of all she enjoyed sitting nearby, willing me to put word after word, on page after page.
I should also record my gratitude and love for my mother. She knew my problem and she also sensed my burning-literary ambitions. At night, during much of the Second-World War, she would sit and take down verses and stories I dictated, but couldn’t write. Most of my early teachers no doubt saw me as a day-dreaming, bad-spelling dunce. If it hadn’t been for my mother I would probably have proven them right. My grandmother predicted my adult life as that of a happy, hard-working farmer. Thankfully, that wasn’t to be. Thankfully again, most of the aunties and uncles in my family were musicians. I often wonder if many of them could read music. Mostly they would have played by ear. My grandmother played concertina and banjo-mandolin. Amy played piano accordion. My mother played jazz violin and honky-tonk piano. Uncle Bill played Gypsy violin, Uncle Henry worked through the drums. Uncles George and Tom sang down the stars. Uncle Ted played anything and everything. I had a childhood of wondrous inspirations, of numinous experiences and a deep love of life’s mysteries. I didn’t live-up to many of them, but I am happy they occurred.
My story will be but little different to that of anyone, born in the 1930s. There are powerful unwritten stories in the lives of all readers of this blog. So, don’t put it off. Take a pen and start to write your favourite or most moving memory. You can type it out later. Better still, talk someone else into typing it for you. Then start chewing it over. Chew at it like a dog with a bone. Except that, with the dog – the bone gets smaller and smaller. The more you chew on your story, the wording gets tighter and tougher, but the story gets longer. So keep on until your typist will scream if you add one more word. Then go out and tell the story. After that you really will work on it. The imitation purple patches will fade away. Anglo-Saxon-derivative words will replace much of the soft-sounding Latin. Every time you tell it, a different image will sneak in. Something you’d long forgotten; perhaps something you never really understood. In the end, you will bring listeners out-of-their-own past. You might even cause a minor, or major, revolution. Or better still, sweetly re-kindle a long-lost love. Whatever you talk about, listeners will be moved to act.
Regardless of your age, don’t just sit there thinking for much longer. You won’t know, for sure, when the long anaesthetic will turn your face away.