Life before Death

Posted @ 16:49:19 on 06 May 2008

As usual I have had a pretty action packed weekend... When I am at work I find a lot of the time that all my creative energy gets pent up, so by the weekend I am about ready to explode in a frenzy of making things... this weekend has brought sewing lots of things, candle making, soap making. And on top of all that I had a party to go to with my beloved's oldest friends, and a day trip out yesterday to go on a bit of a light-hearted Duck Tour and then go to visit an exhibition entitled Life Before Death at the wellcome trust. Any of you that have read any of my past blog entries will know that Death and I have had a pretty close relationship over the last few years. Since I have been writing the new book, this relationship has mellowed rather; I no longer have the raw red scars of his fingers across my face, but the traces are still there nevertheless. We share a companionable silence these days, and I find it easier to go about my daily life without wailing all the time. But the exhibition took me to a different level and made me see a new perspective.

It was a series of photographs taken in several hospices in Germany. The people behind the camera spent time with terminally ill patients, and photographed them before and after death, but the result was not the gruesome thing you would imagine. The first thing that struck me was the immense compassion and concern for the person's dignity that was shown. The photographs were black and white, and very beautiful. They showed the faces of the people up close and personal, and then gave written information about each person, their circumstances and their thoughts about their impending deaths. Each individual was presented as the unique individual they were, and the photos of them alive were full of character and life. The attitudes of the people to their impending event was also very different in each case. There was everything from a Zen like acceptance of what was coming, to people who battled hard against it, and did not want to go. There were people of all ages, from a baby just a few months old, to people in their eighties. Each one had a unique perspective, and a different experience. It was sad (the 17 year old with HIV), funny (the lady who cursed the fact she had just bought a new fridge freezer), moving (the man who found no one he knew would talk to him about his illness and would instead leave telling him to "get well soon"), and frightening (the lady who screamed and screamed when she was told she was dying until she just blanked it all out and believed she was well again). It left me feeling deeply deeply thoughtful about it all but oddly, I didn't find it depressing or pointless; instead I came out with a renewed sense of purpose and went straight home and made something else! One of the things I struggled with about dearest Mumsie, was that she was so young as far as I was concerned. But this exhibition showed that there was an immense range of ages. The Pixie Smith picture of death on his horse laying waste to kings and peasants alike came back into my mind's eye. It happens to all ages. We all have to go at some point. And irrespective of your opinion, whether you battle and scream at the idea, or just calmly accept your fate and wait for him to come, the outcome is ultimately the same. Whatever your feelings are about this subject, I would highly recommend a visit, as it was deeply moving and left me feeling thankful for what I have.

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