Thoughts on Death

A rambling post, that just needed to get out of my head and the draft book.

When I first started writing about this, I was helping to care for my Dada, paternal grandfather. I had recently read a book by Martha Nussbaum about the ideas regarding getting older and what am I meant to do when I get older. Prior to this, I was with my Ba, maternal grandmother, during the winter and looking after her. Well, since I started to write this post my Dada passed away and I was thrown into a feeling not of despair: but facing death alone. Is that even a felling? It’s a thought. So, it’s a bit of a disjointed mess of a post, but then again when have I ever been known to not to go on a tangent on these posts? (On the umpteenth edit, a couple of months later. It’s an incoherent post)

For years I have told people that when I die, that I wish to be on the balcony in Umhlanga, staring at the sea with my children and maybe a couple of friends around me. Even though I lack the children, for multiple reasons mainly not having a wife (or anyone to be frank) to raise some children with, it a notion that I will be able to return to Africa for my final moments. Not many people are in the capacity to decide when and where they die, but in this fictional ideal I want to be home. We can talk about the riots/looting/insurrection in KZN another time.

When I talk to my parent’s friends or my Masi’s and Kaka’s they mention a word that scares the living daylights out of me: retirement. The idea that life slows down to the point where I no longer work as bizarre. I look at my Ba now and she’s been retired for quite a while now. All she does is watch TV and she used to do a little bit of cooking. At Dadima and it’s similar. I think of my grandfather’s health deteriorating quite quickly the less active they became and less able to care for themselves. It’s not all bad, my Kusum Masi enjoys naps, reads the paper daily, goes to the market (well, pre-covid), goes to the temple and maintains a notion of a social life. Those who leave the house and have a social life are okay. There are a couple of clients who enjoy going on long drives in their classic cars well into their 70s and 80s. However, I think of them as the minority.

I like to think that, like Hilary Putnam, I’ll still be writing into my 90s and constantly changing my mind about theoretical issues. My current ‘retirement plan’ is to have a café by a tropical beach and serve some salads for beach goers. Alongside that I would like to part of charity that is helping train teachers and working in rural areas across Africa. Though on the later, I do hope that it’s not necessary and I pass away during the African renaissance.

My forward looking towards a part of life that is not usually a discussion among my peers or friends is something that intrigues me. I think of when Dada passed away and some stories were being shared. I called my friend Richard, the best one, about some the anger I was feeling. This emotion that made me think of the past how I felt wronged by actions in the past and thoughts of retribution in the future. While Rich got me thinking straight, it made me ponder how does one act when I get old. I’ve already said that I’ll be less able to look after myself as I slow down. Statistically, it’s going to happen. So, what can I do now to not only make that happen late as possible in terms of physical self, but what my emotional thoughts?

I’m that I never live abroad again that I will being crying on my deathbed. The idea of living the rest of my life in the UK scares me. It’s quite a hindrance because I try and make it happen by not placing strong roots here. No, that’s not what I mean. Let’s rephrase that sentence: I don’t look for things that could keep me here. I’m trying to protect myself to my perceived potential grief. I hold myself back. It’s taken years to get out of that head space and lockdown in the UK has given me forced time to reflect on this idea. It’s the longest that I’ve been without boarding a plane or seeing a new country. I’ve essentially been stuck in my worst nightmare. Unable to leave the country I call home. Stuck at home and my neck of the woods really. I love Finchley, but it’s a bit dull after the first couple of months. Though I am now editing this on my trip to Barcelona while sitting in Chris’s office in UPF. Travel is essential to who I am as a person. But before some eco warrior comes after me, I have carbon offset my flight (and three flights I didn’t end up boarding, but that’s a story for offline). Speaking to Chris prior to the Barcelona, we were debating how long I would be able to travel alone without getting board. When I suggested six hours, Chris laughed at that fact I suggested for so long! Fair enough, Chris knows me a bit too well.

Let’s get my back to my Dada’s death in May. His death wasn’t unexpected, it had been a matter of when rather than if for a few years now. Well, at least in my mind. Over the last few months his condition worsened significantly and the person I knew slowly disappeared. Watching his mental faculty disappear. I felt as though it was no longer him, but a shell that contained him that I was caring for. It sounds harsher than I want to, but that’s what I felt. There was no more back and forth interactions, I couldn’t bring myself to take the mick out of him or anything of that nature. The relationship had changed. It sucked.

While for the last couple of weeks my Jayesh ada had been staying at home with me, but once Dada passed, he moved into the house in Harrow to be there. While totally understandable, it meant that after months of being by myself and suddenly having someone to chat to, I’m back to being alone. I don’t know about you, but when I think about death at night, my body goes into a state of panic and sleep is not on the cards. So, for the first few nights I was sleepless. Stupidly, I was also driving at this point.  No one died, but honestly, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, let alone rested enough to drive.

Have I found peace, or should I say that I’m over his death? In some ways yes. I’ve accepted what is the reality of life. I don’t think that my current coping mechanisms are great. I don’t know if there’s even a point to this post. I just wanted to get some things off my chest and ideas into the open. Probably just publishing this now to get it out and move on.

Stay safe and see you soon.

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