Nothing is certain but death and taxes

I’ve been asking myself as to whether this is a sensible topic to post on a blog which is questioning happiness, but I want to reflect on the loss of loved ones. I write the following with love, and sensitivity. I hope none of the content offends as that is far from my intention.

I want to stress that I am not a religious man. I do not own a bible or the Quran. I do not believe in a man, or woman, or a number of idols in nirvana or sitting on a cloud. I do not believe that aliens are our saviours. It just isn’t for me. This is not meant to be a religious post, but I wanted to stress that I won’t be ramming my view point on this down your collective throats.

My first experience of the loss of a loved one was when I was at school. We had a beautiful Red Setter dog – Brandy. His red fur would have given Ed Sheeran a run for his money. He was my best friend when I was growing up. A big ginger fluff ball. I knew that he was not in good health as the years passed. As a very young child, I think you just associate illness with rest, recovery and then you’re well again. Simple. But as I’m sure everyone reading this will know, it is not that simple. It is far from simple. My mum sat me down in our kitchen one day after school. Around a wooden pine table. I remember her tear filled eyes as she found a way to tell me that the family member I had grown up with, was at peace. I don’t remember much about the following conversation, but I know I reacted as anyone – regardless of age or understanding of the situation would do if your mother was distressed – I got very upset. I knew that Brandy would never return. That I knew. However, it was a few months later, when looking at a picture of Brandy which we had under the stairs in our hallway, I realised that I would never see him again. That moment sticks in my head to this day. The ‘click’ of knowing that he was gone. I stood there, staring at his photo, and cried in a way that is uncontrollable and grief filled.

My first experience of losing a loved blood family member was of my beautiful nan. We lived next door to my nan and gramps. We lived in a bungalow and they lived in the Harvey family home of many decades. A fortress. A faux tudor looking house, flanked by trees much taller than the house itself.  My nan was an unassuming lady. A petite woman with white hair, always in a neat perm. I have many memories or her taking me to Bournemouth Airport as a wee nipper, watching the planes come and go. She would buy me ‘Owl’ magazine (which I still own to this day – dated 1988 – 1990) which I would read whilst I sat with her. Happiness is childhood memories. Despite her small stature – yet big heart – she drove a cream Rover, of unknown model. It felt like a barge with wheels. I think it may have been. It was huge. When my nan and gramps celebrated their Ruby wedding anniversary at my Aunty Sues and Uncle Steves house, gramps gave nan a small box. She opened it, and a small Austin Metro model came out (I probably didn’t need to stipulate that it was a model. I know that Austin Metros were small cars… but not that small. If a Metro fell on you, I’m sure that you would need considerable medical attention). We all laughed. Then – a set of keys underneath. On the drive sat a gold Austin Metro. Strong memories of a wonderful day. (Just a few months ago, I saw the very model metro that my nan received, in a display cabinet at my dads house. Small and green…. the model of the car. Not my dads house. Or my dad). Then – nan became ill. Very ill. I knew that nan was sick, but again – as mentioned above, my childhood brain would only register that people get ill then get better.

She didn’t. She so sadly didn’t.

May 1991.  I was 10. I finally made the link. Death happens to us all. It happens to ones you love. It happens to people and pets that you don’t know. It will happen to everyone you will ever know. It will happen to everyone you will never know. (Except Walt Disney).

Nan was laid to rest, with her head stone being added a few months later. There was a family joke about the wording – Gramps asked for the line ‘….a gorgeous wife…’, however, when the stone was erected, it said ‘…a georgeous wife…’. It still has this wording to this day. I know my Aunty and my dad briefly questioned whether to amend it when gramps passed away and was reunited with nan, but it was decided to keep the wording the same.

Since my nan passed away, I have lost so many loved and adored family members and friends and pets. Granddad. Gramps. Aunty Jill. Uncle Rob. Frances. Michelle. Uncle Arthur. Barney. Sasha. Barney.  (I have had 2 beautiful pooches called Barney. Both of them adorable). All of them I miss. All of them I have cried a river over.

But what makes death a subject of happiness?

Nothing.

I think happiness comes from time healing, and learning how to recall the memories of good times. Those that have passed stay with us in our thoughts, and we talk about them in our daily lives. The raw bite of grief will obviously forever be there, but the wound fades to a scar, forever visible. Maybe happiness is too strong of a term, as memories of a loved one who have passed are always underwritten by the knowledge that they are no longer in the present, and we can never make new memories with them.

My mum has always told myself and my 2 sisters that you should always say goodbye to those you wish to spend time with like it is the last time you will ever see them. I have taken this concept forward into my daily life, because you truly never know when the boney hand of the reaper will appear on the shoulder of those that you know. Or, on your own shoulder. You never know when you will be unable to laugh together again, or enjoy time doing nothing together.

By considering the above, getting deeper into the pool of morbid curiosity, it has made me consider my own passing. Most people have given consideration to it at some point (our own passing. Not necessarily my own. Unless you don’t like me very much…). Will there be an outpouring of love? What music will play? WHEN?! (I need to know if I need to get cover for group fitness classes….). If we had a crystal ball, we may know. But – if I die today –  Would I die knowing that I had achieved everything I ever wanted? Would I die in the knowledge that I was a good person? Could I be happy that I have left this mortal coil on good terms with everyone (that matters!)? Would my legacy be worthwhile? If I’m hit by a bus, would I be wearing clean under-pants?

Would I die happy?

…..would I….

By the way – if I drop dead before I write a will… if i trip over my pants and fall down the stairs or try and eat a coconut whole (we’ve all considered it, right??), I want a fancy dress funeral. I would love to think that whilst paying respects, there is a room of people dressed as Captain America, a princess, James Bond, a unicorn and a clown. (everyone else can come as either one of the 7 dwarves, or an Umpa-lumpa).

Happiness is having having the ability in laughing in the face of adversity…..

To quote one of the songs played at gramps’ funeral:

Cheer up, Brian. You know what they say.
Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle,
Don’t grumble, give a whistle!
And this’ll help things turn out for the best
And

Always look on the bright side of life!

Always look on the bright side of life
If life seems jolly rotten,
There’s something you’ve forgotten!
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing,

When you’re feeling in the dumps,
Don’t be silly chumps,
Just purse your lips and whistle — that’s the thing!
And always look on the bright side of life

Come on!

Always look on the bright side of life

For life is quite absurd,
And death’s the final word.
You must always face the curtain with a bow!
Forget about your sin — give the audience a grin,
Enjoy it, it’s the last chance anyhow!

So always look on the bright side of death!
Just before you draw your terminal breath.
Life’s a piece of shit,
When you look at it.

Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke, it’s true,
You’ll see it’s all a show,
Keep ’em laughing as you go.
Just remember that the last laugh is on you!

And always look on the bright side of life

Always look on the bright side of life

Come on guys, cheer up

Always look on the bright side of life

Always look on the bright side of life

Worse things happen at sea you know

Always look on the bright side of life

I mean, what have you got to lose?
you know, you come from nothing
you’re going back to nothing
what have you lost? Nothing!

Always look on the bright side of life

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