Maybe the fridge magnets are right - live today as if it is your last
FIFTYSOMETHING:I met an old flame in a country churchyard the other day. If that sounds like the opening lines of a Meatloaf anthem, I apologise, but it seems to me that an inordinate amount of my social interaction happens among the headstones these days. I suppose it’s the age I’m at, a time when the generation ahead is passing on the baton and slipping away.
Time was I riffled through my wardrobe hoping a good fairy might have left a pair of platform boots and a halter-neck in there; now I know with grim certainty where my funeral coat is hanging.
The graveyard was a field of marble; loved, beloved, dearly missed mothers, fathers, sons and daughters slept under our feet. He’d aged, my old friend, we’d all aged; in the mocking white light of a November afternoon, we were none of us unweathered.
“How would you like to die?” he asked me. Not exactly “how are you?”, “how was your drive down from Dublin?”, “mind you don’t trip over the floral tributes”, or any of the things you might say to an old friend you haven’t seen for a long time, someone you had inhaled and exhaled over long, turbulent years. But then again, he was never one for small talk.
“Dignitas,” I answered. “I’m opening a savings account.”
He frowned. I think he might be a Buddhist now, and I’m not sure how they feel about assisted suicide. (Come to think of it, I’m not sure if any of my aspirations are particularly Buddhist-friendly: aim for matching underwear, keep your legs waxed, only drink wine that doesn’t give you a hangover.)
“God, I don’t know,” I relented. “Something fast.” I meant it; I have a deep-seated fear of losing the thread in some geriatric hive.
It’s a big question, how would you like to die, but his blatant inquiry unleashed a bigger question: how do you want to live? I was thinking about it on my way back home, leaving the big grey sea behind me, silently bidding farewell to the monochrome cows, shouldering each other into the hedgerows, udders like bursting gloves swinging between their mud-splattered back legs. They make me laugh, cows, all dressed in black and white, brimming with suspicion and disapproval, glaring at passers-by like big mad nuns. I’d much prefer to look at cows than traffic lights.
Maybe the fridge magnets are right, I was thinking, maybe the thing to do is to live today as if it is your last, especially now that one finds oneself nearing the frontline. Without a generation ahead, it’s alarming how suddenly you can find yourself shuddering in the trenches.