Modern Man

I was thinking my four-year-old daughter, Jemma, had an unhealthy obsession with death. She often says things like "I don't want to die". After my delicate explanation about how she would have a long and full life, but that all living things must come to an end, she said, "Then what's the point?"

From the mouths of babes, straight to the heart of what philosophers and religions have been pondering for centuries.

A friend who works in early childhood development reassured me her obsession with death was 'normal' and 'age appropriate'.

But I needn't have worried. We had a death in the family this week and Jemma handled it amazingly well.

It was a guinea pig called Baba Ganoush (or Baba as he was affectionately known). The kids had been happily playing with him the day before, but when we went to move the cage, my nine-year-old daughter Ruby found him stiff and lifeless.

She ran screaming and crying from the scene. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. She was slightly traumatised. Death was unexpected.

I suspect a small snake must have found its way in and struck before realising Baba was too big to be a snake snack.

But rather than crying and fretting about the death, Jemma took a very practical approach to the situation. She comforted her sister and helped make arrangements for a proper burial. She accepted that Baba would become a part of the soil and his decaying body would help the strawberries to grow. Then she set about looking for an appropriate stone to mark his final resting place.

This is not the first time death has come knocking at our place. Our dog Patty was mercifully 'put to sleep' a couple of years ago and a couple of chickens have also died, or been 'put down'. Part of me is thankful my children have had these experiences. Death is a part of life, but is something the modern world seems to want to hide from view.

Whenever I ask my dad about my 96-year-old grandmother, the conversation becomes stilted and uncomfortable. Several years ago, when she could no longer look after herself, my father and his brothers made the difficult decision to find her a home where she could live out her remaining years. She is well cared for and her family visits often, but it is not a dignified way to end a life.

The last time I visited she said to me, "We live too long these days."

My dad knows it.

He has told me that when he is ready to go, he would like to choose the time and the circumstances. But to assist him in his wishes I would be breaking the law.

Our family has the longevity gene, so he has time on his side. He is hoping the laws on euthanasia will catch up with community sentiment before his time comes.

I hope one day we have the courage as a society to say it's okay if somebody is ready to go and to let them call their family and friends around them and to go on their own terms.

Let's not hide away from death.

What's the point?


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