Do you give death and dying much thought? In a healthy way, I mean?
Is dying a notion we reflect on at all?
Or perhaps obsess on? [Don’t.]
No doubt there are various approaches.
I’m prompted by two stories, one recent, one historical. One fictional, one emphatically not.
I’ve just read a thought-provoking book, Tuck Everlasting. Written for teenagers (by Natalie Babbitt), its premise builds around a family who find a spring in a forest, drink of it, and find themselves immortal. The story explores the implications, especially the Tuck family’s misery in living forever in precisely their present form and age, while all around them others (spouses, children, friends, etc) grow old and die. At the time of the story – although one of them is still only seventeen – they have already existed like this for 87 years; and their daughter, who didn’t sup of the spring, died three years ago, aged 91.
You’d think we would welcome immortality.
But, wait … Could that possibly be worse than death?
What if some could (live forever) and others couldn’t, so decisions had to be made?
Or … what if we could all have it – immortality? Then we wouldn’t face the torment of seeing our loved ones age and pass on …
Yeah, but … the planet couldn’t hold or support us if that was the case …
And what about the bad guys?
So sobering imagining all this and cause for reflection – at a number of levels. Think about it.
I have a dying story.
I was on exercise in Central Queensland. I was part of the Orange forces, arrayed against the Blue forces. It was evening – a beautiful tropical evening. Flying was done for the day, our aircraft secured and camouflaged, and a group of us were sitting in a circle outside our dusty tents, shooting the breeze, as aircrew do, well fed and, if I recall correctly, drinking beer. Two soldiers, appropriately dressed in desert cam, so arousing no suspicion, bearing familiar weapons, sauntered up to our group and one of them handed a slip of paper to one of our circle. Unbelievably, they then took a step back, raised their automatic rifles and blasted us – full circle – rat-tat-tat-tat-tat! We dived for the ground, folding chairs clattering and tumbling, bodies tangling – all in the intense shock of the first half second. By the time we recovered and crawled uncomprehending to our knees, the two had vanished and we looked around at each other sheepishly. What the hell?!
Our member with the note, still in his hand, unfolded it and read, “Bang. You’re all dead,” and it dawned on us. Two Blue Force soldiers had somehow got into our camp and brazenly wiped out (albeit it with blank rounds) three Huey helicopter crews.
It was a memorable experience for me. The closest you can come to experiencing death without actually being deaded. So sobering and cause, would you not agree, for reflection – at a number of levels. Think about it.
How we strive to avoid death. Wired to survive, at all costs.
Difficult for most to even to contemplate it – dying. It is the worst thing that can happen to a living person, nē rā? A person without a faith, anyway.
But imagine dying wasn’t on the table …
There’s a lot more to the matter than we usually give weight to, and … well, go on: think about it some more, and see if you can’t come to a more balanced view (and acceptance) of it. I’m not sure how my own death experience has helped. It was a rich adventure, at least. Maybe that’s the thing … dying could be imagined a last great adventure.
For numerous perceptive quotes from ‘Tuck Everlasting‘, go to https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/1955922-tuck-everlasting.
One thought on “Dying Re-imagined”