Life, and living, are acceptible topics for discussion, but dying and death are more-or-less taboo subjects for dinner table discussion, much like religion and politics. Canada recently changed its law to allow assisted death for those terminally ill, yet despite the practice being unanimously accepted, death and dying remain taboo topics for discussion.
When I was young, very young, my experience, not unlike other children, was that only old people died. My grandmother’s death was my first experience with dying and death. Her skin turned yellow, and one day the family gathered, I was told to say goodbye to grandma. We children were sent to the cinema, and when we came home grandma was gone. The last that we saw of her was when she was laid out in a coffin in the front livingroom of her home, all nicely made up with makeup and her hair neatly combed.
As I grew older I became familiar with animals being hunted and killed, and with adults and the odd child being killed by accident. However, I still held tight to the belief that it was only old people that died. War was the exception. Everyone was vulnerable in times of war, young and old, at least that’s what my history books taught me.
In my early adult years I realized that death was not the sole possession of the old, and accident victims. Friends and family in their thirties and forties were getting sick, and dying. I began to think seriously about the finality of death, and wondered about what came after. Friends and family members “believed” in the existence of a place called heaven, believing that if you were good then you’d go to heaven, and if you were bad then you’d go to hell. My studies suggested that the idea of a place called heaven although comforting, was a bit unbelievable as there was no proof of the existence of such a place, and the very roots of religion were proving too mythical for my acceptance. I came to understand that dying was painful and death was quite final.
I’m now what many would refer to as not only getting old, but old itself, and my beliefs have changed very little, yet I still seek answers to the concept of living, dying, and death. Recently, I came across an article on the topic in the Huffington Post written by Ali A. Rizvi Pakistani-Canadian writer, physician and musician. I found it to be quite interesting. The following is a portion of his article. I encourage you to follow the attached link to read the entire article:-
and succeed in growing old and grey,
don’t expect to enjoy a peaceful end,
and simply fade away.
Life after toiling the long bumpy road has few pleasures.
Pain and sorrow replace most pleasures.
Liesure hours expected
are spent in dingy rooms,
on hard back chairs,
joined by pain etched faces,
awaiting news from tests non ending.
Never wish that you had lived life better. No, live every day in every possible way!
Study- Dead Chickadee Graphite Drawing
In the wild few creatures live to what we refer to as "old age". Almost everything is food for something else. Some years ago I discovered a dead chickadee lying on the ground outside my studio window. No doubt it had flown into the window, and had suffered a fatal injury. Chickadees are tiny birds found from coast to coast in Canada. I've often thought that they should be adopted as Canada's bird. Friendly, to the point that they can be coaxed to take seed from your hand. The dead chickadee appeared as if sleeping. I decided to make a painting to remind me that life with all of its pleasures and mysteries is fleeting, and that death with its finality cannot be avoided.
Dead Black-capped Chickadee Watercolour Painting