I Am Going to Die – Free Ebook

In our waking hours, for much of our lives, we are granted an unwarranted luxury: a sense that we are immortal. Our organs function normally, our joints give us no pains, we are focused on the next few financial quarters in the business. Dropping dead is the last thing on our minds. But this is not the case in the early hours. Suddenly, there’s an odd gnawing twinge in the stomach. It isn’t anything major, and it might pass by tomorrow. But this might also be the start of a tumour that will fell us by the new year. Also, our chest feels a bit tight. When we breathe, there can sometimes be a sense of strain. There was an incident a little while back at the airport, running for the distant gate. Could it have been a heart attack, a quiet one that passes largely undetected but tears fatefully at a valve? What about the slightly odd mole on one’s back? Has it always been there or is it new, spreading aggressively and malignantly? Why can’t we remember the name of that really nice colleague we worked with a few years back? Is reason beginning to crumble? This would be just the moment for a stroke which will leave us half-paralysed; paramedics will urgently wheel us along the A&E corridors on a trolley bed. We’ll need to have our bottom wiped by a nurse and be fed with a tube coming out of our nose. The sheer implausibility of being, and remaining alive, grows overwhelming. How is it possible that one can keep living, given everything that might go wrong? It isn’t hypochondria any more, that macabre almost fun state of mind you can adopt as an adolescent, this is a realistic assessment of the risks. It’s the imagination correctly deployed. This present ache or twinge might not announce the end – but something will happen. The abstract possibility of death turns, at night, into a concrete, decisive fact. Perhaps we’ll fall off a ladder trying to get a suitcase out of a high-up cupboard and lie on the floor for eight hours with a broken neck, blood filling our lungs, before anyone finds our discoloured limp body. Or maybe we’ll be lucky and it will be a quick aneurysm on the way back from a party celebrating a friend’s birthday. Whatever it will be, it’s getting closer. Others will be deeply distressed for a while; a few people will be sad even years later when they happen to think of us. But they’ll cope. It won’t matter to anyone the way it matters to us right now. We’re appalled and awed by the deep strangeness of being alive; it’s so fundamentally improbable that the delicate web of our thoughts and feelings is being sustained by a bunch of pulpy, fragile organs. All our complicated ideas and lovely movements of the soul depend upon tiny mindless white blood corpuscles, oxygen molecules and the rhythmic spasms of the sinoatrial node. Why does the machine keep going? Why aren’t we dead already? The thoughts are horrific – and the full panic may go on for half an hour or more. But as we gradually grow used to the idea of being obliterated and forgotten, the thought of death sharpens our resolve: we have to do the important things while we can. We need to finish our work and dare to take up new initiatives. We need to forgive more. We can let a stupid comment pass; we can give up on a feud, even though the other wronged us. The visceral knowledge of our approaching death renews our appreciation of existence. It’s incredible to be able to hear a car accelerating in the distance; it’s fascinating to have feet; the pillow feels so nice on our cheek; it will be lovely to look tomorrow at a tree or to hear a song or bite into a fig. We’re brought back to a proper sense of the charm of things that ordinarily seem too slight to notice but which are close to why life is worth cherishing. The veil of jaded familiarity is pulled back – at least for a little while. A year starts to look like a huge privilege to have. A day when nothing much happens won’t be boring, it will be magnificent opportunity to continue to exist. Our perspective cards features tools for a wiser, calmer perspective on life. They help to restore calm and clarity even during difficult times.

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