Death - the great leveller.
It's amazing how often I think about dying these days; not in a morbid way, but just wondering how, when and what happens next. It was the death of my father that triggered it - nothing like the death of a parent to jolt you into thoughts of your own mortality.
When you're a young child, wishing your life away for the next birthday, the next holiday, the next Christmas, time is the enemy. But, as you grow old, what once seemed such a long time suddenly seems to be no time at all.
I remember a group of us at work once working out that, statistically speaking, we'd probably die at 81 years-old. We were 27 at the time, and thus a third the way through our lives. 81 seemed a long way away then, and old enough for the final bow. Fast forward 27 years, and another 27 doesn't seem that far off - or anywhere near enough.
The realization that the Grim Reaper has you in his sights comes upon you slowly. First your elderly grandparents start to die off, then you have none left. Then the famous actors, singers, sportsmen, and politicians who helped shape your life slowly start to fade away. The trickle soon becomes a river, as every month brings the death of someone who touched your life in some small way. And then a parent passes. Then the other. That really brings it home. Later, as you grow even older, it's your friends and acquaintances who go off at an increasingly fast pace to meet their maker.
So what about death ? Is the thought of it comforting ? Is it frightening ? Will the end be quick ? Is life a test ? Will I pass ? Is this a dress rehearsal ? If so, what's the main event ? Is this it ? Is it enough ? Miss I be missed ? Will I even be remembered ? Could I have done more ? Was I a decent man, a good son, husband, father and friend ?
Sometimes I think that we should have been born old, and then got younger each day until we died. That way at least we might appreciate life more. By the time you get old enough to realise how precious it is, it's almost certainly passed you by.
image: © Paul Kline