Solo: Death in Dun Laoghaire – Essay: My Death

  All my life I have been fascinated by death, in all its guises, I have worried and picked at it, like a scab, which, though it hurts, you can’t help but nag and tweak. As a very young child as soon as I learned to pray I immediately put my new skills to work, praying fervently so that neither I nor anyone close to me would die. When I would watch TV and I saw someone famous I found myself wondering, when will they die, what will they die off? Often when I get up in the morning, I find myself thinking is it going to happen today? Again and again when taking my daily swim in the sea I often find my self-musing, am I going to drown this time? I rarely travel in a car without imagining it crashing, or see a plane flying, without thinking is it going to fall from the sky. For years I have obsessively gathered media images and newspaper clippings of and to do with death in all its forms, the bizarre, the tragic, the ludicrous, the mundane and the murderous. However I don’t think that I am afraid of death, in fact it’s the reverse; sometimes it would be a most welcome relief.

My funeral is already planned. I have never liked the idea of being buried underground, slowly decomposing into rancid ooze. So instead, after a trip to the crematorium, I want my ashes thrown into the sea, around the back of the Forty Foot in Sandy Cove on some warm gentle summers evening. Hopefully a few friends and members of my family will still be present, and they will pop a bottle or two and remember me fondly.

As time passes, I find myself pondering more and more about the actual nature of my demise, the how where and when of it. Will it be of old age, languishing in one of those ghastly old folk’s home’s that stink of death and boiled cabbage? Slowly at first, and then quicker and quicker your friends and acquaintance’s start to drop off, you try and ignore it, block it out but it gets ever closer, nibbling away at your life, striking in the most unlikely places. You find yourself strangely moved by the death of someone you hadn’t seen for years, and largely indifferent to that of a close friend, merely relieved, thankful that it wasn’t you. Your body starts to fail. It becomes harder and harder to manage, and your life as you have lived it up to now slowly starts to unwind and a new one reveals itself. And before you know it you end up incarcerated in an old folk’s home, in Bray.

Alone, immobile, wild-eyed and incontinent, shouting the occasional obscenity, wearing a nappy, fermenting in your own excrement. On occasions you would be lucid, aware of what was going on, and gagging for death to come and claim you, take you from a world that has shrunk to this. From time to time I would be visited by doleful children, depressed by your surroundings and the state of you, guiltily hoping that you die before all the loot is swallowed up and wasted, in keeping a useless bag of bones like you alive.

Possibly, I will die in a hospital; rigged up to all sorts of machines that flash, beep and hiss. Doped out of my mind but still in pain, conscious of what’s happening and utterly terrified of what’s next, begging, pleading for my life, with a deity, whom up to now, I have completely ignored, promising all sorts of atonement for my neglect; if he would only just save my sorry ass.

Or then again maybe I’ll die at home, ravaged by cancer (at this moment Lung or Throat Cancer being the most likely candidate). It starts off as a faint ache, you pay it little heed at first, and then as you become ever more aware of it, you tell your self, its nothing to worry about, but none the less you do, you don’t want to go to see a Doctor, since to do so is to acknowledge that the pain exists, but none the less it gnaws away at you. Eventually after months of denial and procrastination you go and get checked out, it’s almost a relief. The news is bad and gradually you enter into the world of the sick, until your life becomes completely dominated by the disease, your every waking hour is spent dealing with or thinking of it, to’ ing and fro’ing from Doctors and hospitals waiting rooms, surgery, treatment, small mountains of tablets, pretending to your loved ones that everything is going to be fine, and above all hoping. After months or perhaps years of struggle, false dawns, resistance, pain, fear and worry, I would finally be resigned to my fate. Waiting for the inevitable, fading and fading and fading but still managing not to die, becoming a mere husk of my former self; your life utterly changed by what you have experienced. Avoided by family and friends, whom when you do meet, you can clearly see in their eye’s the fear of their own demise.

Then again sometimes I think perhaps I am going to go out with a bang, a sudden massive heart attack accompanied by an unbidden rush of fear and excruciating pain, leaving you with no time to think about anything else. At the moment I think the most likely cause of my death will be in some form of transport accident since it’s the closest I have come to dying. I have lost count many times I have Absent-mindedly wandered out on to a road without looking left or right or bothered looking at all, and just missed being flattened by car’s buses and motorbikes. After the initial shock you quickly forget what nearly happened, you think little of it since nothing actually occurred. You gloss over how precarious your grip on life is, the narrowness of the thread, which keeps us all in this world.

Possibly knocked from my bike by some arsehole who opened their car door without looking, or pulled out on to the road with out checking. I will fly in slow motion through the air, turning arse over tip to smote the ground with my head, cracking open like an egg, never to resurface. Or maybe be I will be crushed beneath a truck like that cyclist whose legs I once saw, protruding from under the wheels, outside Oscar Wilde’s house on the corner of Merrion square, one gorgeous warm summer’s afternoon. His blood flowing into the gutter, a few bits of what at first glance looked like raw hamburger, flecked about on the hot tarmac, the fire brigade trying to hose it all away. Across the street, a large crowd of office workers on their lunch break, were compelled to hunker down, to get a better look, couldn’t help it. The sudden crunch of bone, being pulverised like an insect beneath a heel and offering up about as much resistance, the taste of blood in my mouth, the realisation that I am rightly fucked and surprised by how unafraid I am.

I have imagined many more deaths for my self, being mugged and shot, tripping and hitting my head on the pavement, choking on my own puke, a brain tumor, an aneurysm, a drug overdose, electrocution, choking on a piece of meat, throwing myself in front of a train, blowing my brains out, a house fire. Legionnaires Disease, swallowing a wasp, a slate falling from a roof, a tsunami. Tetanus. M.R.S.A. Ebola or Sars.

To many I am sure this seems sick, an unnatural activity, thinking about your death, as opposed to suppressing any thought of it, hiding it deep inside you, storing it all up until you are old, burying it all beneath a mountain of distraction and desire, denying it, however I find thinking about it strangely comforting.