I was recently reading an article about the Australian writer Cory Taylor and her book, Dying: A Memoir. In it the writer of the article, Alice O’Keeffe asked what we should do if we don’t have the consolation of a religious belief about the after life. She wrote that:
“The rest of us need to know how to go about dying with some dignity and grace…”.
Now this sentence struck a real element of discord with me. Why do we have to aspire to die with dignity and grace? This reminded me of the women who are held up as marvellous examples because they went through childbirth without a murmur or breaking a sweat whilst the rest of us puffed and farted and screamed our way through it. Why does death have to be “dignified“? I feel that this pressure to be calm, unemotional and serene through major events is so sterile. What’s wrong with a bit of passion and expression when we are undergoing life’s big events? My worry is that the need to be serene may preclude a dying person’s opportunity to be happy as well as sad: to be laughing and crying.
Dylan Thomas wrote his great poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night to say that it’s OK to be angry – it’s OK to rage at the end of your life and express your desire to stay a little longer. Maybe having a bit of a rant will be cathartic and help you move towards accepting what is inevitable.
“Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.”