Someone once said that life is like a good novel – You don’t want it to end, but to be any good it does need to have an ending.
For me, one of the greatest glories of nature is the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth – on all its scales, from the millions of years it takes for mountains to rise up and be worn down, then rise again, to the seasons of the year and the life-cycle of a fruit fly. I want to be part of that great cycle. Not to be part of it renders life almost meaningless.
But for the fact of death, none of us would be here now. If some amphibious creature that crawled out of the primeval ocean had become immortal, evolution would have stopped at that point and there would be no human race. So, I am profoundly grateful to death for my existence, my life.
When I was in my 70s it was discovered that I had prostate cancer in a very advanced stage, which meant It had almost certainly spread to vital organs. You could never be sure, the consultant said, but possibly I had only two months to live. The news didn’t seem all that terrible to me. What I was sorriest about was that I couldn’t spend longer with the people I loved. But I really could not complain. I’d had a good life. My wife, who was a nurse and who has seen many people die, tells me that given a choice between dying too soon or too late, too soon is by far the better option.
A few months before receiving this diagnosis I had said to a friend: ‘Whatever happens to me from now on, however awful or disastrous, I will still be one of the luckiest 1% of the world’s population.’ I had in mind the starving millions, the homeless, the victims of war and violence and those who never got a chance in life to fulfil their potential.
So, as I say, I had no complaints. It is easier to let go, I think, when matters are resolved, when you have done most of the things you want to do and, above all, when you have found a path to gratitude and forgiveness.
Dhanakosa, October 2017
PS: After radiotherapy and hormone therapy, the cancer was completely cured. My PSA level is now nil.