Tag Archive: Mortality


Near Death Experience

The other day I watched a David Nichtern video, it was one of three on something called Lojong Mind Training (they and others can be found here), which was a new term to me, from Buddhism, but apparently it is pretty foundational and important. I can’t remember everything it involves so I won’t reduce it by trying to explain what I can remember, but he said something about getting old and dying. He said that we can expect to live to about 70-90 years old. That was the span, but he mentioned ages in between which, for me, brought it into sharp relief. I’m 56, and I calculated the years between now and 70 years old and realised it is only 14 years. That brought me up really sharp. When you are 56, 14 years isn’t a long time, especially if you think that could possibly be the end of it all, as far as life’s opportunities on earth are concerned. I had watched another of his videos previously on old age, sickness and death and it had nowhere near the same impact on me as the mention in this video.

I thought about it, this sudden awareness of how short a time I had left, potentially, and I thought that from now on my life is, literally, a near death experience.  Many of us are afraid of death all our lives, sometimes manifesting in denial or defiance, from the point we understand it is going to happen to us.  People say that young people think they are immortal and will never die.  When I was young I think it was something I couldn’t get my head around, that I wasn’t going to live for ever and that, one day, I would be like a lot of the older people I saw.  I still can’t, really.  I have moments when I dread becoming incapacitated and being alone with it, maybe put into a care home.  I can’t imagine anything worse, given my own experiences in hospital and the stories of abuse that somehow manage to get out and go public.  It’s a bit like the way some people view mental illness.  It’s scary as a concept but they hope and think it is never going to happen to them.

I’m a pretty isolated person these days and, in some ways, always have been, so I don’t know how much I have in common with other people in this, it isn’t something I remember having talked about. But when I was in my teens I had this idea that I wouldn’t live beyond 20 or 21.  I just couldn’t see life beyond that point.  I wondered about it a lot.  Maybe it was a bit of a Victorian novel idea of dying young, and I suppose that, psychologically, that sort of thing might be described as a near death experience in the way I’m using the term for this post.  But it is very much an ‘in the mind’ thing.  I’ve known for a few years now that I have lived most of the life I am going to live.  I feel as if I’ve achieved nothing and there are things that are important to me, I like to think, that I would like to achieve, and potentially I now have ONLY 14 years left in which to do it.  Possibly even fewer.  Of course I don’t live with that intense awareness all the time.  If I did I’m sure it would be unbearable for me.  But, at the moment, it can loom over me like a sense of impending doom and fear of failure.  And I see myself beginning to understand and handle and cope with my life experience better than I used to, like little shoots of hope and growth, then I hit a wall and have these crashing waves of despair and regret and feelings like it is all a bit pointless to begin to feel this way NOW when the time I really needed it and it could have made a real difference in my life and perspective was when I was much younger.  It’s like, ‘what’s the point of this, now?  I’m going to die soon.  It’s too late.’.  It is preceded by real joy, but the joy is quickly extinguished in painful feelings of hopelessness and fear and it being too late, and that death is very close and ready to pounce.  Often, along with that, there are feelings of, ‘why didn’t I get this before?’ and ‘what have they done to me – and why?’.

I didn’t mean to end up here.  I feel as if I had better stop, I’m not sure where else to go with it.  I’m OK, though.  If some of my friends felt able to help me laugh about it that would probably be the right way for me to deal with it.  It feels that way at the moment, anyway.  Laugh at life’s tragedy, at least your own.  It’s the way forward.  As the song says, ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’.  I really think that, to a great extent, it’s a choice.

I hope you won’t mind that I have written this way and that some of you might find it helpful. Thinking about it, I’m thinking I might be describing what has often been termed a mid-life crisis, though maybe I’m past that age, I don’t know.  These days at this point I feel as if I should do a Google search.  Communication and accessibility of information are definitely changing since the birth of the internet.

And ANOTHER of my messy offerings flies into the ether!  I do love to write, though.

Robin Williams 2

It isn’t possible to know what was in Robin Williams’ mind when he committed  suicide, as there has been no mention of a suicide note.

We are all in the dark.

It emerged today through his widow that he was in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease.

That might have been a factor in his suicide, it might even have been the deciding factor.

He might have done it for himself, he might have done it for those who would have had to care for him,

His mind might not have been clear at all in determining his final act.

Some of us are left wondering who he was, and feeling a bit betrayed.

Maybe there is something in the assertion that suicide is selfish.

(My father committed suicide.  I was 11.  I have missed him and made excuses for him to myself for years  I have felt a responsibility to understand and love him.  I have to see myself and my experience as separate, the burden of responsibility and identification is too great.)

Whatever may emerge, we don’t know why he killed himself, not really.

We can only guess and maybe come to a conclusion that is most comfortable for us, that we feel we can understand.

I feel sorry that he has gone this way.

He was obviously in great pain.

Why this need to make a god and a benchmark of a frail and aging man?

Loss, Mortality And Related Issues

I learned something I didn’t know yesterday.  I was watching ‘That Was The Life That Was’, about the late Sir David Frost, and I learned that ‘That Was The Week That Was’ had its first broadcast on my 2nd birthday.  A year later, 2 days before my 3rd birthday, President John Kennedy was assassinated.  I remember watching News at Ten on that day and I was aware that something serious had happened.  I felt very sad and shocked when I heard that David Frost had died.  I think the first I knew of him was when he presented ‘This Is Your Life’, which I always liked to watch.  I found myself wishing last night that my dad had watched TW3 and introduced me to it, but I was only 2.  The programme last night was followed up with ‘Frost on Satire’, and it showed clips from ‘Spitting Image’.  In its time I never watched it and wouldn’t have known who all the characters were, I think I might have seen it twice.  I recognised some of the characters last night though.

Hearing of many people dying, some of whom are not much older than me, makes me feel bereaved, and also aware of my own mortality.  I know I’m only 52, 53 next month, but I am feeling the fact of my own death coming up and it isn’t the best feeling in the world.  I keep feeling there have been so many missed opportunities.  I keep seeing people who have grown up, in the media, and wishing I was like them, that someone had fought properly for me to be educated when I decided that I didn’t like school so I wasn’t going, after my father died.  I feel no one really fought for my family.

I’m sitting in Costa at the moment.  I’ve just had a large mocha and downloaded the two Frost programmes I’ve just been talking about.

I was aware of David Frost partly because I knew he was a Christian.  I feel really upset writing this.  ‘That Was The Life That Was’ showed clips from things that formed a fair bit of my memory.  I remember the President Nixon thing, I saw ‘All The President’s Men’ when it came out.  I remember being in a prayer meeting at Talbot Street when the Watergate Scandal erupted and Gerald Ford took over.  In the meeting people were praying against sin and for righteousness and I wanted to pray that God would help Richard Nixon and his family, because I felt very sad for him, but I didn’t dare pray that way.  No one else was.

I’m not sure how much of this is sadness, really, over these past events and memories, and how much of it is just displaced sadness and grief over my present situation.  Feelings can re-attach to anything.  I admire people like Ian Hislop so much but know they don’t know me and probably wouldn’t be interested in me if they did, because the truth is I have nothing to offer.  Maybe that is what idolatry is, attachment to so many people who don’t even know I exist and might not be interested if they did know.  It is miserable, painful and embarrassing and fruitless and pointless, maybe that is why God commands against idolatry, because in the end it is so painful.  I am nursing a hope that Ian Hislop and so many others will see this and care.  How silly is that?  But what if?  THAT would be fun . . . !

Maybe that is the skill of the programmes I saw last night, hitting on so many memories for so many people, and bringing them to life again.  I feel a bit left behind and I’m crying for someone to help me catch up.

I’m missing Tommy Boyd as well.  I met him properly once.  We tried to have a proper conversation.  He’s deleted his blog and left Facebook and Twitter.  I never thought he would do any of that, especially not deleting his blog.  I feel lost without him and I feel attached to him.  I thought he was trying to help me.  I never thought he would leave broadcasting, but from the lack of information about him on the web at the moment it seems he has done jut that.  A lot of my stability and courage, when I had it, came from him.  I went to his house a few months ago, after I absconded from Macmillan Close, ad his wife was there and we had a conversation in which she told me he probably wasn’t interested and reminded me of when they had called the police.  I am grieving because I thought he wanted to help me.  I feel hopeless and helpless without him.  He told the story of a gorilla that was castrated for raging and throwing stones at people that used to taunt it.  He said that was what they were doing to us as well.  I identified with that with regards to my situation with the mental health services.  He said he thought it was wrong, that people should have been told not to taunt him and a proper environment maintained for him.  Anyway, he is inaccessible now.  I don’t know if he will ever be accessible to me.  I thought he was going to be.  I thought he wanted to be.  I never thought I would have to abandon hope with regard to him, and indeed I dare not.  I wonder what is going on with him?  I wonder if he is OK?

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