On death

I decided to write about death because I recently met someone who had been diagnosed with liver cancer. With treatment he went into remission, but he had been told he was terminal. Death is everywhere but we choose not to see it. The dead cat by the side of the road, the weary feeling in our bones which we can get rid of with a brisk walk; these are signs of our mortality.

I’m inspired by a poem which, I believe, dates from ancient Egypt, around 3000 BC :

Death is before me today
like the recovery of a sick man,
like the going forth into a garden after sickness.

Death is before me today
like the odor of myrrh,
like sitting under a sail on a windy day.

Death is before me today
like the course of the freshet,
like the return of a man from the war-galley to his house.

Death is before me today
as a man longs to see his house
when he has spent years in captivity.

Here, death is seen as release and freedom: a new beginning preferable to the stagnation of exile or waiting for conflict. At last, here it is the old bastard! Personally I feel like Woody Allen who said, ‘I am not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.’ Wise words there, Woody.

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