A few weeks back, I experienced a health scare that had me thinking maybe my end was nigh. I’ll spare you the medical details, but I had painful, alarming symptoms, (unrelated to Covid), that suggested I might have a condition that can very often prove terminal. Because of the pandemic, however, I couldn’t get a face-to-face appointment with a doctor for three weeks; I only managed it then when a helpful nurse, who was taking a blood sample, arranged an appointment for me.
Those three weeks gave me time to consider what I thought of the prospect of potentially not having very long left. Let’s be honest, I’m 66 so there’s already more of life behind me than there is in front; the problem brought my mortality into sharp relief. It was a bitter-sweet experience. I was so aware of all the things that make me so appreciative of life: my partner, my children, grandchildren, other family and friends, music, books, writing, everything that I enjoy. I knew that I wanted more of those things, and others that I’ve written about before; I didn’t want to leave them behind just yet. It all felt, despite my age, to be too damned early. At the same time I recognised that I might not have very much control over whether I had more time or not. There’d be some form of treatment offered of course, but then that would become the focus of life and I’d have to consider whether that would be what I wanted.
These thoughts occupied the same space as one of calm acceptance. If this was it, then so it be it. I was – am – in a good place. I have so much in life. I love the people in it and enjoy it all, even the mundane and the stuff I’m prone to stress about. It would be okay to go out on a high, to take my leave, if that was where things were heading, from such a good place. I have no worries either about what happens after death. Nothing happens after death, not for the deceased anyway, and oblivion never hurt anyone.
Finally I got to see the doctor. He told me the results of the blood test were fine. Some of my symptoms had eased after three weeks and he concluded, after examining me, that they were not, after all, life threatening despite how they might have seemed. His explanation of how they appeared in the first place: ‘bodies do peculiar things… especially as they get older.’ They certainly do.
At least the episode gave me the chance to consider and come to terms with my inevitable demise. As Jean-Luc Picard* said to the omnipotent Q when he supplied the good Captain with a replacement electronic heart: ‘So I won’t die?’ To which Q responded, ‘Of course you’ll die. It’ll just be at a later time.’
A later time will do for me.
*Image copyright whoever owns Star Trek: The Next Generation these days (from the episode ‘Tapestry’).