At last the event I had wanted and feared: a full day dedicated to contemplating my own mortality. It turned out to be quite jolly.
To be precise, I was booked in for a day’s retreat on Life, Death and Transformation, under the guidance of a remarkable of pair of leaders. Hilary Lovelace has decades of experience in nursing the dying, and Stephen Archer as a trained Buddhist monk has been on close terms with his own death for years. I was very impressed: they were wise, clever, honest, funny and kind. And non-religious: I prefer that.
I’ll only talk about my own experience, to maintain confidentiality.
Here’s the blurb:
The purpose of this workshop to explore how freeing up our relationship with death can become a transformative force for healing and well being.
What did I hope to achieve?
Let me see. Perhaps to look my own death straight in the eye without flinching. Perhaps to own the knowledge, deep down, that yes, my death is inevitable.
And why in the name of goodness would anyone desire such a thing, you ask?
Not sure. I just see it as accepting reality, not just intellectually but emotionally, which in this case is extremely difficult to do. I need help!
Anyway, it’s the flip side of accepting that I may live another 25 years. Without this bucket of cold water, a healthy energetic oldie like myself could slide into magical thinking. I might believe I am certain to live all those bonus years, instead of just quite likely. I might believe that blueberries will banish the grim reaper as well as the doctor.
Most people keep awareness of their mortality safely at bay until they drop in their tracks. It’s too scary. That’s OK, I’m not criticising. What would I know, anyway? Do whatever makes you happy.
But for me, a “good” old age (which is not a bad old age) needs a supplement: awareness that it will end some day, nothing surer.