St.Margaret's News August 2020 - Page 8

The reality of mortality Life is a privilege, especially for those of us born and living in a relatively wealthy and democratic country like Australia. It is to be valued, cherished and enjoyed, even though it inevitably has challenges and disappointments. I like that old saying; ‘You wouldn’t be dead for quids!’ But life is finite; it has a beginning and an ending. This applies to all living things, animals and plants. Humans are no exception; we are no exception. The birth of a new child is a miracle; a cherished gift. This wonderful new human being has come into the world with so much potential. We celebrate the arrival; we’re excited; we’re optimistic; we’re full of hope that he or she will have a long, happy and fulfilling life. But, whatever our hopes may be, there is only one certainty; one day that life will come to an end. For my part, and I write this at the age of 88, I recognize the fact that we are only visitors on this planet, and short-term visitors at that. I admit that the thought that, one day, I won’t be here is a bit disappointing. Being an inquisitive type, I like to know what is happening in the world, in our community and especially, in our family. I enjoy life and don’t like the thought that it will end, but the reality is that it will. It has happened to every one of my ancestors; my 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, 16 great great grandparents and so on; there would be millions, and they have all died. Why should I be an exception? Lord John Maynard Keynes, the famous British economist, the founder of Keynesian economics (pump priming), when many of his colleagues were criticizing his theories for being useful in the short term only, countered by saying “In the long run we are all dead.” So true. The long term is made up of many short terms. Life is full of many short-term objectives; picking the right career, paying off the mortgage, buying the new car. Keynes was spot on. Let’s look at the logic. Imagine, if people lived forever, where would all the new people live? There wouldn’t be enough room on the planet. We wouldn’t have the joy of welcoming new babies or the hope that comes with them. We wouldn’t have new ideas, new approaches and new solutions. We’d have little progress or excitement in a world populated only by old people. We need renewal and regeneration. We need turnover of population; birth, life, death; the cycle goes on which means death is an essential part of life. Death in old age is natural. Premature death, especially of children, is tragic. Everyone deserves a full life. Advances in medical science mean that we can sometimes delay death for a while or ease the process but we cannot avoid the final result. Life expectancy has increased significantly in recent years and improvements in the provision of palliative care are very welcome, but we all know that, eventually, the time will come when our life on this planet will cease. We know in our minds that this will happen but we shouldn’t dwell on it. When we are young the thought of death scares most of us; it did for me anyway. As we get older we St Margaret’s News 8 August 2020