Sunday, May 24, 2015

Death is round the corner

My head is dizzy and not just figuratively.  Either I’ve copped a virus, or else I’m having a stroke.  Or maybe I have a brain tumour or some other sinister event is taking place within my body. 

The hypochondriac in me tells me this dizziness signals disaster.  The optimist reckons its nothing short of a virus that will pass. 

But I’m surrounded by illness and it can become contagious. 

A friend rang this morning to ask my middle name, she’s making out her will and needs such details. It’s a comfort to imagine she might be planning to remember me in her inheritance, but a grim thought to consider she might die soon.  She’s just turned 85.

And then there are other reminders that death is around the corner. 

I scan the death notices most days, looking for signs that people I once knew have died, but we only subscribe to the Age and most of the names that appear there are those more conventional Anglo-Saxon types who also subscribe to the Age. 


To read the fuller death notices in Melbourne you have to subscribe to the Sun Herald where hundreds of notices from different nationalities ring out the news.  It’s a depressing thought. 

One day my name will be included in those notices, just as we included my mother’s name last year and my father’s before her some thirty plus years ago.

My niece on the cusp of forty may be dying from a rare form of cancer and the very idea fills me with  grief.  Too young, too soon, and yet she has told me, when she goes to the Peter Mac Callum clinic for treatment, she’s not a rare case.  The waiting room is filled with people and many of them are under forty. 

To me, under forty is still young.  Too young to die. 

The longer you live, the older you’ll get, the statistics tell us, as if that too might be cause for comfort.

These grim thoughts need an antidote.

In the shower this morning as I reflected on my night’s dreams, two things struck me. One is the degree to which the babies in my dreams, and I often dream of babies, are a mixture of infant and adult, as in they can talk fluently, they eat adult food, and they can sometimes walk even under six months. 

I drag these babies along with me in my dreams and they tend to fit in and survive.  Make of that what you will. 

Then the other feature - a pleasure in my dreams beyond those occasional dreams in which I find myself flying over rooftops, elevated above the ground simply by willing it to happen - I find money.  And not just small amounts of money. 

There’s a fifty-dollar note I see tucked behind a rock.  I pick it up and there’s another and then another. I stash them into my pockets keen to gather as many as I can. 

But this money belongs to someone else. I should not take it or else I must grab it fast because soon they’ll return and lay claim to it.  I’ll be caught out. 

Adam Philips writes about ‘guilt as the psychoanalytic word for not getting caught’.  I write of the horrors of getting caught.  Of being found out and then of having to suffer the consequences. 


I can’t trick my body.  It knows when something’s wrong, but whether or not I pay attention is another matter. 
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