Wednesday, 22 February 2012

the shared experience and breaking the taboo

Those of us whose loved ones are diagnosed with cancer (or any other life-threatening illness for that matter) do whatever we can to support our afflicted partner, family member or friend.  However, we can only imagine how it must feel to be in their position.  While people respond in different ways when faced with such devastating news, those who find themselves fighting the same disease have a common bond outside the ties of family and friendship. It seems to me that this shared experience can be the source of a special kind of understanding and support for our loved ones which we cannot provide. 

And so it was between Steve and John, whose funeral we attended yesterday. They had only met a few times since both were diagnosed with cancer, but whatever the occasion, they always seemed to find some quiet time to talk together.  I know that Steve drew much comfort from these discussions and was inspired by John's positive outlook and approach to life, something which featured strongly in the tributes paid to him at yesterday's service. 

There is never an easy time to discuss how we would like others to mark our deaths and celebrate our lives before moving on with their own.  Steve and I have skirted round the subject on more than one occasion, usually in a black-humoured, jokey kind of way which keeps it at a distance. There is still a bit of a taboo feeling about such matters, as if you are tempting fate by even thinking about death.  But it will come to all of us sooner or later; perhaps we just need to face up to it, deal with it without dwelling on it, then get back to enjoying life while we can.

Not surprisingly, the subject came up again yesterday at the gathering after the funeral.  Before he died, John had suggested the music he would like to have played at the event - a wonderful eclectic mix of classical, rock, jazz and blues pieces which reflected his personality and taste in music, and provided a fitting tribute to his life. It was also a great relief and comfort to his family that he had made his choices known them while he was still living, rather than them having to second-guess what he would have liked, after his death.

Without wishing to sound morbid, we have taken a cue from John's lead - each of us thinking about a quiet contemplative piece we would like to start our funeral service, something a bit different in the middle, and something to lift the spirits at the end.  It's rather like choosing your desert island discs - an almost impossible task if you have a wide taste in music - but we've made a start and broken the taboo  I'm not going to spill the beans now, that would spoil the fun...I hope we'll both we have plenty of time to change our minds in future, if we choose to do so. 

However, whilst difficult, simply beginning this process has been strangely liberating in a weird kind of way. As Steve says, his only regret is that when the time comes, he won't be there to enjoy it!  

So much for planning for events in what we hope will be in the distant future.  Time now to start getting prepared for this weekend when we will be joined for lunch by a group of friends from our student days, a pre-birthday meal for Steve in advance of the family event the weekend after. Music not a problem for this event - we'll just put the i-pod on shuffle and see what comes up - but we do need to think about food to make this a shared experience worth remembering for the right reasons!

Last but not least - happy birthday to Ray in Seasalter! Have a wonderful day with Mavis (and Louie the dog).  We look forward to sharing the experience on your respective blogs!

No comments:

Post a Comment