Recently I attended a celebration of life held in honour of a family friend, and the experience has brought forth some long-standing thoughts of mine; predominantly, that we all need to start having conversations about death – long before it pushes its way into our lives. I believe that on some level every human, younger people in particular, feels invincible. On a fundamental level, regardless of our intellectual beliefs, we think that our existence, and that of our friends and loved ones, is guaranteed, that we and they will still be present in a year’s time. Examples of this denial of the fragility of our own mortality permeate our culture, right down to not wearing our bicycle helmets when riding down a busy street.
On an intellectual level, many of us know that life is fleeting. We know that all too often lives end quickly and without warning, we see evidence of it constantly in the news. So why do we not talk about it? Why is death so taboo, particularly in Western culture? Why do none of us make our final wishes known, leaving loved ones to guess and worry about what we “would have wanted”? None of us would wish to force guilt and uncertainty on our loved ones, so why do we? Why are we so preoccupied with avoiding the concept of our own mortality that we cannot spare our loved ones some pain? Why can we not have these frank discussions long before we anticipate that we may pass?
It’s time for a culture shift. It’s time to start having uncomfortable discussions – because, regardless of our feelings, they are necessary. Funerals exist so that the living may have closure – we need to provide our loved ones with the closure of knowing that our true final wishes will be honoured.