I have been thinking. Again, I know. About the things that really matter.
The first is good health. After the last decade I consider myself a bit of an expert on this, because I haven’t had it and have been around and caring for people without it in a terminal, eventually sort of way. I know we’re all terminal eventually and the realisation of this as it truly applies to oneself is quite something. Tomorrow is something tricky to appreciate until it is in short supply. After the cancer diagnosis and the bungled surgery I had plenty of days where I thought tomorrow would not come. It came for me but not for my cousin.
The first time a close acquaintance buys the farm, hands in their dinner pail, goes the long journey and even, horrors, actually dies is a very sobering moment. It happened when I was fifty and the school friend who shared my birthday died. She had had a hysterectomy but the cancer was ovarian, and missed, it was just a few weeks from the real diagnosis to death.
In the modern world we have used many advances to distance ourselves from death. In most countries we pay specialists to care for the dead person, to attend to whatever last rites there are and dispose of the body. For many people in the developed world the first sight of a dead relative may come late in life or never.
Instead we worship at the platform-heeled, gold-sandaled foot of youth. We cherish inexperience and appearance and devalue age and knowledge. This is strange because as a species we have more age and knowledge than ever before. Five hundred years ago when life expectancy was around forty years, senior members of the village were venerated and their opinions, formed of long experience, were sought. Now anyone who can flick through a smart phone has access to the wisdom of ages but actually only knows how to flick their thumb up and down a small screen.
To acquire the wisdom of age you have to live a long life. I wouldn’t say I had the wisdom of age, despite just having had a very significant birthday, but I do know a very great deal more than I did when I was thirty, when I believed I knew enough to mother a child. Having been a teacher, maybe I did, but I would have to say the bulk of knowledge of what people are like and what they do has probably been garnered in the last twenty years.
The last ten years has taught me that surviving life-threatening disease and medical conditions is largely a matter of luck. If you happen to get the rubbish surgeon on an off day you will be in for several years of suffering while your body sorts itself out. If you go to A&E while the B team are on diagnosis, it can take up to a year until someone is bright enough to figure out what is wrong..
If you are like the OH and have inherited a constitution from some very wiry long-lived survivors you can push your luck quite a long way uphill.
Unless your N&D are made of strong stuff you will be on your own eventually.
There is an episode of the Simpsons in which Marge tells Bart: you have to be kind to your children because they get to choose your old folk’s home.
What all of this means is that if you have any good physical capability left anywhere, including basic stuff like being able to digest food, walk on your legs and heal when you are broken, enjoy every minute of that and give thanks for it. Add it to your gratitude list every night, so that when it disappears you won’t be bitter and twisted but will remember that you did have it once and appreciated it.
The other thing that really matters is freedom. You would think in the modern world we would all be free. Nothing has pointed up the case that this is not the case more than the pandemic. Countries with free citizens who voted in their politicians and had the freedom to vote them out again if they decided they didn’t like them are the countries where the population are in the process of being vaccinated.
Freedom is life. Good health is life.
Be grateful if people are kind when you are poorly, selflessness is a rare and wonderful quality. Be kind yourself and hope it comes back around to you.
If you have health and freedom be grateful and happy because you have possibilities.
And with possibilities anything is possible.