I don’t think you’re going to get what I’m saying unless you do feel the same, so I shall clarify it later on, I hope. But quite simply, I have felt for quite a long time that what I set out to do in life has been done and it’s a relief to know that I can let go any time I need to.
It first came to me when my youngest child was 17 and approaching his 18th birthday. I realised that I’d … well, I’d have fulfilled the contract. In one sense, I didn’t have to be a good example any more, but in another I – bluntly – could die without reproach. With hindsight, I was rather unhappy and exhausted at the time and the thought was a relief, but the feeling has never left me. I asked a friend and she was taken aback and said that she wanted to live as long as possible, she’d fight for her life and her wellbeing. More recently, another friend asked, what about my grandchildren, didn’t I want to live for them? But that’s not my point at all, it’s not as pessimistic as that but not as self-sacrificing either. Living *for* someone sounds like something of an ordeal. Another friend didn’t agree because there were so many things she still wants to do. But it matters very little to me whether I do something I would, no doubt, enjoy, such as see the Taj Mahal (which I have) or the Pyramids (which I haven’t). Who cares, in the long run? If I were dead, I wouldn’t be in a position to miss having been in a hot-air balloon, swum the Hellespont, met some of my dear but far-flung blog friends.
I should explain what has brought this on – the Sage and I have been considering Lasting Power of Attorney documents. There are two sorts, financial and health. It’s the health one I mean at present: if one had a serious condition that meant one was not able to make one’s own decisions, it authorises one’s own chosen people to do it. On the one hand, they might stop a doctor putting me on the Liverpool Pathway; on the other they might say I wouldn’t want to linger on life support. But we had to talk about what we really would want, so asked our children round for a family discussion a couple of weeks ago. The Sage, it was clear, would want to carry on living at almost any cost, whereas I absolutely wouldn’t.
I am not talking about euthanasia, suicide, refusing treatment for a life-threatening illness, but more about an attitude. I come from a short-lived family and that is often on my mind, not as a matter of fear but of reassurance. It isn’t even a matter of health, nor of being tired of life. I’ve known plenty of older people who said they were ready to throw in the towel until they were actually ill, and then they were very tenacious and had a completely changed attitude – my mother amongst them. We all know people who have completely lost their minds through dementia and have understood that, if in their right minds, they would be horrified and miserable and never wish to end their days like that. But I’m not trying to discuss that either. Simply, I know the best is long over, but that’s okay, there’s plenty still to enjoy – not that I think life is about enjoyment but about kindness, mostly. But, for many years, I’ve had a sense of completeness and even finality. I just wondered if any of you know what I mean?