Today kids we’re gonna talk about death. Morbid eh? Well no, not really. As we all know it’s actually part of life and you can’t have one without the other. Yet most of us of scared of it. We also think, that because we have a consciousness we’re sort of immune to it and we’re all really suprised and shocked when it happens to us. We know we’re not invincible, we know it’s gonna come sooner or later but we pretend it isn’t going to happen and often don’t make the most of the short time we are given on this floating planet in an infinite universe.
I’ve experienced my fair share of death. In fact when I think about it, I often feel that I’ve experienced more death than most of people I know. That’s not a good thing. Just an observation. We all experience death in different ways, whether it’s through other people’s losses or our own and we all have various different understandings of what it means. We all experience grief in different way and one persons grief is in no way lesser than someone elses. My mum’s dad (my Portuguese grandad) died when I was very young, of prostate cancer. I was too young to understand what that meant or really remember experiencing it at all. But as I grew up I learned of him as a person, how lovely he was and how sad my mum was when he died. Every year my mum lights a candle in his memory next to a picture of him. It’s a lovely sentiment and lets us remember him.
My first real experience of death was the death of my first dog Zeno. Most people can relate to this experience. He was a golden labrador my parents got me when I was two years old. He was the original Andrex puppy. Think Marley and Me. He used to pull my pants down and make me cry, much to the amusement of my family. I loved him so much, when I was little, some days I used to pretend I was a dog and crawl around on all fours and pretend to drink out of his water bowl (ok I admit I did try that once). He was awesome. But when he was about 12 years old, he got really bad arthritis in his legs. It was really painful for him to walk, so we took the decision to put him to sleep. I wanted to be in the room with him till the end. So when they injected him with the ‘special death liquid’, I kept stroking him till I felt his heart stop beating. Jesus Christ. At that point in my life I had never cried like I did that day. I literally couldn’t stop, in the back of the car with my mum and brother in the front driving us home, it was awful. When we got back to the house it was so quiet. His bed and toys were still there, it was literally heartbreaking and still brings tears to my eyes. But in hindsight, I’m glad I experienced it. As much as it’s sad, it’s a good experience for a kid to go through. Prepares you a bit for life.
Little did I know that a few years later, I would experience one of the most life-changing death’s people can experience, the death of a parent. My Dad. My mum and dad had split up when I was little for various reasons, one of which was his battle with alcoholism. So it wasn’t like I saw him everyday. He lived in Wales. I saw him a couple of times a year but I spoke to him pretty much every weekend on the phone. I remember his soft Welsh accent and how we used to talk about what music I was currently into. One day the phone rang in the house and I picked it up from my Mum’s bedroom. It was my uncle (Dad’s brother in law) and he wanted to speak to my Mum. Knowing this was odd, I called down to my Mum to pick up the downstairs phone and as she did I covered the mouthpiece of the receiver and pretended to put the phone down, instead eavesdropping on the conversation. It probably wasn’t the brightest of ideas in hindsight, but that was how I found out that my Dad had lost his battle with the bottle. It felt like I’d been punched in the stomach and I felt instantly sick. I dropped the phone and starting wailing at the top of my voice. My poor mum, realising what had happened had to finish the call and come to my aid. The next couple of weeks I don’t really remember much of. I remember crying a lot to begin with but I think I quickly realised the best thing to do with all this emotion and confusion and grief, was to bury it deep down and try to forget about it. Obviously that is not the best thing to do, but I was 15 and that was my coping mechanism. I played Bon Jovi really loud and wrote down my feelings in a diary. Standard.
If that wasn’t bad enough, 3 months later a friend at school died of carbon monoxide poisoning. He went to sleep one night and never woke up. A few days before, a bunch of us had all been at the local park (not drinking and smoking) and he was running around trying to tickle me. I HATE being tickled. I remember laughing and enjoying being around him and that was my last memory of him. A few days later at school we were told that he had died. My first thought was, oh god, not another one. My teenage-self began to think, is it me? Why is death following me round? Obviously it had nothing to do with me, but 2 deaths in 3 months is quite excessive for anyone to deal with, let alone an angsty teenager.
The last death I will talk about is my friend Tom. My partner met him whilst working at the student union bar at university and introduced him to me. He was super intelligent, studying a degree in Politics and to this day the only person I have ever seen complete the Times crossword (by himself without cheating). He smoked rollies and constantly ‘borrowed’ my tobacco. He was witty, clever and cool without trying too hard but with absolutely no self-esteem despite being an awesome person. He would fall in love with girls and not tell them about it, for fear of rejection. We were friends throughout university and when it all came to an end, we went our separate ways and he returned to London. In August, a couple of days before his birthday he went round a friends house to celebrate with a few drinks. They offered him a place to crash, but he thought he’d walk home as it wasn’t that far. On the way home someone stabbed him and he bled to death on the side of the road. To this day, we don’t know who and we don’t know why. It wasn’t a robbery as he still had his phone and wallet on him. The story made the papers and went on Crimewatch but still we have no idea why anyone would do such a thing to someone as harmless and nice as Tom.
I won’t dwell on the negatives of these stories and instead I’ll tell you after experiencing all these things, how I feel about death. I’m actually ok with it. I obviously don’t want to die, I have massive F.O.M.O about it (fear of missing out). I hate the thought that if I got hit by a bus today, life would still go on without me. I’d miss out on experiencing life, laughter, love and all the bits in between. But life would go on without me. Sure people that I know might be sad for a bit, but they’d eventually carry on with their lives. The rest of the world would not even notice. At least one person dies every second. Every second! We as people need to appreciate this mad world which we live in more than we do. You know that thing you’ve been thinking about doing for ages? Just do it. Honestly, no fucking excuses. On your death bed you will not think, ahh I’m really glad I didn’t do that thing. We wish away our lives an awful lot. Make the mistake. Take the risk. We really only do get one chance. But if you’ve got to a place in your life, where you are truly happy, then enjoy it. Appreciate the little things. Nature is epic. Human beings are amazing. A smile can change someone’s day. Smile at a stranger. I bet they’ll smile back. Let’s all make the world we live in a nicer place. Because, it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.