Saturday, October 26, 2013

Contemplating Mortality

I had in interesting conversation with my father the other day. The subject was his death.

My family is not the religious type, nor are we constantly bickering or expressing our feelings using either words or fists. We are the kind of family that plays board games on birthdays and doesn't mind what you do as long as you let everyone know if you'll be home in time for dinner.

"Bye Mum! Just going out to trade sexual favours so I can bye some more heroin from my pimp!"
"Will you be home for dinner?"
"Probably not."
"Okay, have fun!"

That's my family. Slightly exaggerated but you get he point.

So when your father sits down for dinner with you and asks whether you and your brother will be free this weekend to read and sign his power of attorney document, you can't help but raise the eyebrow and wonder. Does he know something I don't know?

Now before I go scaring myself again, there is nothing wrong with my father other than a strong love for baked goods and maybe a few too many suspicious looking moles.  For the moment he is fine; but I know that in the next few years he is going to become less and less fine. And I've imagined this already. It's not something new. One or two nights a year I stare into the darkness of my room before sleep takes me and wonder what it will be like when he is gone. How will I react? Will he know I loved him even if I don't say it? Would I have to speak at his funeral? Will Mum still be kicking around? Other important questions I know are strange to most people to continuously ask themselves, but for me it's not.

Death happens.

And I, and the rest of my family for that matter, are baffled by people who refuse to use the word "dead" and instead try to incorporate fluffy and soothing words into a statement you will eventually need to hear at least once in your life.

"They are dead."

There is really nothing terrible about that statement, in the same way there is really nothing terrible about death. As I type it I know that is wrong. Death is a horrible thing. Dying is the one thing everyone is afraid of, some more than others. But everyone needs to consider their, and the worlds mortality. It's something you can't sugar-coat. Because after that sweet feeling of "They're in a better place" wears off, you know that your loved one is probably lying on a metal table somewhere void of more than just colour, and you think to yourself . . . "are they really?"

Dad said I would have power of attorney, which means I would have the right to make the final call if something happened to him among other duties in the case he kicked the proverbial bucket. When he said that, I was ready to start crying right there into my pork chops. But then I'd be there for the next few hours while he cried with me and Mum cried with me and my brother sat next to us awkwardly not knowing what to do. So I just listened.

One of the roses from my parent's garden

Dad said - after Mum had finally managed to convince him - he wanted to be cremated in his best suit (seeing as he paid for it he wanted to use it) and spread between three rose bushes to be given to me and my two brothers. How f**king poetic is that? I couldn't have come up with something so tear jerking. And you know what the first thing I said after he shared his plan?

"Holy shit what if the rose bush dies?! It'll be like you've died twice!"

Now some people might consider that inappropriate but my brother promptly followed with a well delivered mime of: "OH GOD IT'S HAPPENED AGAIN!" and soon we were all laughing. After that it was just a discussion about if we wanted anything left to us in the will, what would happen if Mum went first, the semantics of it all etcetera, etcetera. And after it all, despite the tears trying to squeeze their way out, it was a lovely discussion. My father is getting more and more sentimental and gentile with age, which is good and bad I suppose. I can't walk into anywhere near him without him gazing at me and sighing wistfully. But it's good to know we can still sit down at the table and make deeply inappropriate jokes about poor behaviour. I even asked him if I could play ACDC's Highway To Hell at the funeral. He seemed unsure but I know I could convince him.

No tears were shed. It was painless. And now the family knows what to do when the day comes. It won't be a good day, but it will be something we are better prepared for.

Death doesn't have to be a sensitive subject, you just have to be sensitive about it.


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