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. 


Anonymous said...

Oh, my goodness! I've just seen an unusual surname I know. Better make some polite enquiries (as opposed to an inquiry).
And you reminded me that I had a vivid dream last night but for the life of me, I can't remember even the subject matter, let alone the details, but I know I pondered on it in the early am hours.
I do hope I'm not coming down with a virus.
Get well soon, dear Elisabeth.
Karen C

Jim Murdoch said...

Looking through the obituaries. Feels like such an old-fashioned thing to do. I’ve seen people on TV do that. I’ve never known anyone do it. My parents never bought a newspaper. It wasn’t until I’d left school that I realised how abnormal that was and I did try for a while but mostly they bored me. I say they never bought a newspaper but now I think about it there were newspaper cuttings left after they died—a photo of my sister standing beside a lollipop lady jumps out—so they must have or someone cut it out and gave it to them. If anyone died we heard about it. There was no need to put it in the paper. I didn’t even think about doing it for Mum and Dad when they died. They would’ve regarded it as a waste of money. It was how most things were measured.

Three years ago I was suffering from a rare bout of nostalgia and went looking for people I used to know online. By pure chance I came upon an obituary for my first girlfriend who’d died a year earlier at the age of fifty-two. As you can imagine it made me terribly sad. And guilty. I think of her as my first girlfriend but we never dated or kissed or even held hands. I fell in love with her when I was about ten and I stayed in love with her until I was about thirteen which is a lifetime for a pubescent boy I guess. I was awkward though and didn’t know what to do with my feelings. I watched others but it was too hard and so I kept my feelings to myself and it was years before someone else distracted me. Her I loved for the next three years although, to be honest, I never stopped loving either of them. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped loving anyone even though I’ve tried.

The reason I felt guilty about Alison’s death is because I never told her I loved her. I always meant to. Occasionally as adults we’d run into each other but there always seemed to be someone around and so we never ever had a proper conversation. I know exactly where I saw her for the last time and it was a pleasant enough exchange but that was it and now she’s dead and she’ll never know how much she had meant to me. I’m sure she was loved. I can’t imagine her going through life and not knowing love although I don’t think she ever married.

I wrote a poem afterwards. I included it in a comment on your blog back in 2013. Must try and get it published.

PhilipH said...

Sometimes dizziness can be due to LOW blood pressure. This often happens when getting out of bed or rising from a chair. I do hope you are NOT getting ill but you should probably discuss it with a GP.

You, Elisabeth, always write so interestingly. And so does your daughter, whose essay you once published here. I ALWAYS read your posts; not necessarily commenting on each one but I love to read your offerings.

I also find that you attract some really good comments and one of those is, of course, Jim Murdoch. His comment today was extremely good and touching. I empathise with him and especially the link to his poem linked to a 2013 post on your blog.

I read that poem; a beautiful piece indeed. I then came back to this current posting and, although Jim's comment was still here the link to his poem of 2013 had disappeared. I wanted to read it again but Blogger had not allowed it, apparently.

Hope your dizzy spells are short-lived but if they continue then get chatting to doc. S/he may say you need some quinine tabs? Helps in some way I have heard?

Anthony Duce said...

A reassuring commentary here of thoughts, dreams and fears.. Enjoyed.

Christine said...

All sorts of reasons for dizziness ranging from inner ear problems to the more serious illnesses. I hope you will find your way to a GP who will investigate thoroughly.

Kass said...

Christine is right. It's very common to have Benign Positional Vertigo - the crystals in the inner ear being out of whack...and it's reasonable to go to the eventuality of your death.

Jim's comment....oh, Jim's comment,"...she who had gone has gone again."