Where the Wild Things Are: Death and Dying

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, May, 16, 2004.

My Dad is quite likely going to die soon, any day now. Don’t worry about sending sympathy, condolences or anything of that sort. You don’t know him. For me it’s a lot more personal.

People think the dying become almost holy. As if, while dying, they change and become a better person all of a sudden. You can’t talk badly about them, you must visit them and you should really, really hold their hand.

Well, my Dad was not a nice, happy, friendly Dad. His dying hasn’t changed that. I don’t want to hold his hand. I don’t want to go in and see him now that he is becoming a pile of meat rather than a human being. Sure, I can stick my hand inside a turkey each Thanksgiving and pull out the little bag of goodies. That doesn’t mean I want to do the same sort of ghoulish thing with my Dad. So, I am visiting him (second time will be today after work) but I am not going to touch him.

What do you believe about death? That gets tested each time someone close to us (physically or emotionally) dies. I still believe in reincarnation. I still believe the body becomes about as useful as roadkill once the person inside is gone. I still think the best body disposal method is compost in the family garden rather than taking up space in a graveyard plot. I’d much rather have my remains sucked up by worms and trees than rotting away in an expensive box.

Am I grossing you out? Am I being too blunt? Do you not want to think about death in such a practical way? Too bad. Death is part of life. There is no getting away from it. Death is always there, waiting at the end. That, I very strongly believe.

I’m not afraid of death. I’m just in no hurry to get there. I’d miss too many things. Every ordinary day, new inventions and ideas, seeing the tulips each Spring and so on.

Anyway, my Dad wants to be cremated. It looks like he will soon have his wish. I don’t think I will miss him. But I’m doing my best to be a good daughter now, in these last days. Not for him, not for myself especially, but for my brother and sisters who seem to expect something grand and dramatic and perfect. As if now that he is about to kick off forever we should honour him for the things he did right.

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