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Sunday, 4 January 2015

Thinking about death

This tree is growing outside mum's nursing home next to a sports oval. It has a hole in it. A branch has broken away from the main trunk, and then rejoined with another branch to form a separate, individual trunk alongside the main one. Mum pointed it out to me today and asked me to take a picture of it with my phone.

The tree reminds me of something my cousin's wife said yesterday when we visited their house near the nursing home. I'll call her A. Recently, A went through the difficult process of watching as her father grew aged and passed away. She told me yesterday that because of the proximity to death these events allowed her, she began to think about death and mortality. Not in a morbid way, she told me, but, she said, in terms of herself. "I understand what you mean," I told A, "the same thing has happened to me as I have accompanied mum through the stages of her old age." I told her I wasn't scared of death. "I'm not scared of death either," she told me.

This kind of experience is like the tree with the hole in it. You break away from normal life for a while and attend to things associated with dying and death, then you rejoin the trunk of normal life again after a time, and become part of the main flow once more. Or, perhaps, the experience allowed you from the proximity to death is like a "window in your heart", as Paul Simon puts it, and people can see through this window into you, or into the other side of things through you.

I don't know which one is true, or if either interpretation is false. I do know, however, that seeing my mother evince fear in the presence of decrepitude has given me a quantity of insight because of which I think I have been able to put aside any fear of death. I see the state of death more as a growing together of two loose strands. In death you rejoin the universe. As Turner said in Mr Turner, the film I saw a couple of days ago, "We are as one with the universe and the universe is as one with us." There is that scene right near the end of the movie where the bed-ridden painter cries out from within the final moments of his mortality, "The sun is God!"

As we grow closer to the All we sense our kinship with everything, and we might develop new abilities of expression or of perception. I hope so. I hope to be able to see the little people at the bottom of the garden, as my old friend Pixie used to call them. I hope to be able to see those who have passed away, in a similar way to my mother's populating the walls of her old apartment with the photographs of dead shades, forgotten family members, people known to just a few living souls, of whom I count myself as one, allowed her to commune with past generations. Maybe in the final resolution I will rejoin those souls in the cosmic quagmire as a thread of germinal spore-flux eviscerating out into the crepuscular darkness of insensibility where we inseminate the universe with the generations of the Future.

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