When I was a lad in my teens, death was an impossible image to conjure up. It was something that always happened to someone else and usually a lot older than me.
I was immortal, so it didn’t matter how fast I drove my car, or how I vaulted over that fence with the spikes on top, or even how I jumped into the sea off a cliff, with absolutely no idea of the depth of the water! Nothing could hurt my friends, or me! Of course, there was a few very rare occasions but these were due to sheer bad luck and were simply the exceptions that proved the rule.
At that stage of my life, even parents weren’t supposed to die. After all they were still useful, providing a home, food, safety and love at a time when we had important matters of our own to attend to. Important thinks like meeting girls, driving fast cars and diving into the sea!
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My grandparents passed during my late teenage years and I can still recall the considerable sadness that they would no longer be around. I also felt a slight sense of anger that they caused inconvenient interruptions in the exciting life I was enjoying. I know, that sounds extremely selfish, but young minds work totally differently. At that age you are still the centre of the universe and everything revolves around you and for your benefit. That is the way nature made us all!
But that was a very long time ago and in the intervening sixty years or so, I have lost many friends and family members. Often through misadventure or stupidity and with each loss I have learned more about the value of life and the importance of being reasonably careful.
This isn’t because of fear it is a realisation that when you go you create an expanding ripple among those around and close to you. A man crashes his car while driving too fast and a little drunk and is killed. But he leaves behind a wife and three kids who suddenly have to manage on their own, parents to mourn him, friends, and finally work colleagues, all of whom have their lives altered in some way because of his passing. There is a responsibility there!
I don’t mean that we all have to wrap ourselves in cotton wool. No, but just think before you act and try to avoid doing something really stupid. I flew gliders for many years, but I only took it up once I had decided they were in fact a pretty safe form of activity while still offering an exciting sport. That is very different to getting into a car while drunk and trying to find out how fast you can make it go, on a dark, wet night!
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Now that I am in my late seventies I am well aware that I am nearing the end of a happy and adventuresome life, spent with a wonderful wife, super kids, and many challenges taken up. Some successfully others not. But at least I can honestly say I have had a go and I have always tried never to say ‘no’ to an opportunity.
We have had our up’s and our down’s just like anyone else but most of our years together have been happy and I have now returned almost… to that state I was in when I was young and had no fear of death. Not because I still think I am immortal but simply that I have no regrets and believe that when I do go, (not too soon I hope!), I can do so knowing it has been a worthwhile life!
What are the things that you used to do do then, that you’d never do now?