on not knowing when the end will come

yellow and black wooden cabinet
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We all need a finish line to aim for,

A chalky line across the grass, and tape

To break our way through with our arms held high.

Without that line we’ll keep on running,

Swimming to exhaustion in a pointless circle.

We need to know how long we have, and yet we don’t;

We drift through life without a clue,

It could be twenty years from now, it could be

Crossing over one wrong road at one wrong time,

Never to have time to say goodbye.

I’m reading a book about a woman who has cancer and she is trying to come to terms with the fact that she is going to die young. She is dealing with something that many of us won’t have to worry ourselves with; although there are many of us who will have time to think about death as we get older.

My grandmothers died in two very different ways and I have spent a lot of that last decade thinking which I would rather. One died of cancer and although it’s horrid, we all got the chance to make peace with the fact that she was going to go.

On the other hand, my other grandmother just went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up. It seemed like quite a lovely way to go, but it was a terrible shock for all of us. However, is that a terrible way to go when you are so much younger? To not know that the end is near? To not live your last day in a way that is fitting?

We all fight with the idea of death at some time and I guess that I’m worrying that I might be halfway now. Or perhaps I’m even further forward. I went to school with a girl who died in her sleep when she was seventeen so it doesn’t just happen to eighty year olds.

And then there are the goodbyes. Don’t we all need to say goodbye, no matter what the relationship? Even if it’s the man on the checkout at your local supermarket; it would feel wrong not to say goodbye and thank you for your company.

So, just in case it’s ever too late, thank you for your company.

Much Love,

Rachel xx

6 thoughts on “on not knowing when the end will come

  1. Margot Kinberg

    You really bring up a fascinating topic here, Rachel, although it can be unsettling to think about it. My mother-in-law died suddenly, and although it was a great shock, and we didn’t get to make our peace, so to speak, it was merciful in a way. She didn’t suffer, and my father-in-law didn’t have to spend years caring for her, or putting her in a care home. On the other hand, I’ve known people who died of cancer and other longer-term things. At least we could make peace, say ‘goodbye,’ and so on. And that gives one time to make financial and other arrangements. Hard to say which one is less devastating, really…

  2. Vic Crain

    Rachel, we live in a stochastic world — a world of probabilities, not certainty. Death can come at any time. Suffering can come at any time. So can joy. People don’t like uncertainty. That’s one of the issues with death — what if anything comes next? However, barring the invention of a time machine, there are some questions the answers to which we will never know.

    The World Health Organization calculated the “healthy life expectancy” for Americans several years before Covid. At that time, the time of good health was six years shorter on average than the full life expectancy. Covid is making life expectancy shorter, and probably reducing healthy life as well.

    The bottom line is that we need to be a peace with not knowing, and we need to be organized and prepared for what could and eventually will happen. It means addressing other issues that people don’t like to discuss, like a will, guardians for the kids and life insurance. It also means some form of long term care insurance in case passing isn’t fast.

    I hear this regularly: “[something] happened and we don’t have the money to pay for it. What can we do?” That could be a death, a pregnancy, or something else. Sometimes there’s a bandaid fix; often there is nothing to be done. The situation is always heartbreaking, but also annoying because its usually avoidable.

    if parents die without a document formally naming a guardian, their minor kids go into the state foster care system. Family can go to court to get them back.

    If a person age 55 or over needs nursing home care and doesn’t have the $9,000 per month to pay for it or insurance, they enter the Medicaid world and get to liquidate all of their assets, even to the point of signing over their house to the state. (There are exceptions such as if there are disabled children in the home. It’s still bad.) They get a little pocket money each month to pay for non-essentials, but all income goes to Medicaid.

    None of that sounds like fun, does it?

    Putting off thinking about something unpleasant doesn’t make it go away. Procrastinating usually just makes things more unpleasant.

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