Lights out

Dark and misty window

Despite having a blog, I’m quite a private person and don’t share many details about my personal life online. But I’ve had something on my mind for a while. I drafted this post some time ago but couldn’t decide whether or not to publish it. Reading about other people’s feeling is one thing, but sharing your own is quite another.

There have been several events over the last few years that have changed the way I’ve thought about shuffling off the Earth. Don’t worry, you won’t need to grab any tissues, there’s a positive twist at the end. I promise.

I’ll start with our friend Linda who loved quilting, cooking and gardening. Out of the blue, her husband contacted us to say she had been admitted to a hospice but passed away shortly afterwards. Her not reaching retirement was the saddest thing for me because it would have mean’t many happy hours quilting in her sewing room at the end of the garden. It saddened me that there were several projects she never got to finish and many she never had the chance to start.

The second event started with a low flying helicopter. Occasionally, a private helicopter lands in a nearby field but we decided to follow it this time. It reminded me of watching Challenge Anneka on TV as a kid! Anyone ~30 years old remember that? As we reached the road, we had the horrible realisation that this was in fact a rescue helicopter assisting a cyclist who had been hit by a van. Sadly we witnessed the last few hours of that persons life. Now I didn’t know this person but I couldn’t believe it was all over, just like that.

The final event that tied everything together was falling off my bike. I was quite concussed so I stayed in hospital overnight for observation. Nurses came to check on me every few hours but I remember being scared to go to sleep in case I didn’t wake up. In hindsight, this was irrational because my brain scan didn’t show any bleeding or abnormalities but a traumatic experience can make you feel a bit all over the place. In my overactive state of mind, I lay there thinking about things I hadn’t done. It started off with small things like the pile of junk on my desk Scott would have to sort though if I didn’t wake up and scaled from there.

Since that time, I wake up once or twice a week with the strong realisation that I’m going to die one day. My eyes will close and the lights will go out for good. It’s a horrible feeling that I can’t really put into words but thankfully it only lasts a few seconds. Afterwards, I roll out of bed, look out the window, get dressed, eat breakfast and start my day as normal. I wonder if most of us have this feeling but perhaps no-one really talks about it? After all, death is hardly a cheerful subject! But on the flip side, thinking about death has helped me work out what I really want from life.

I don’t believe in heaven or hell. I personally believe judgement day comes when you are laying on your death bed thinking about your life. Things you are please you did, what you’ve accomplished, things you wish you’d done and things you deeply regret. I am hoping I’ll be laying there thinking about being in the mountains, sitting in front of the log burner with the cat after a roast dinner and how I’m glad I ate half a round of Camembert this Christmas even though I probably shouldn’t have done.

I’m not saying we should all live every day like it’s our last. It probably won’t be. Most of us would run out of money pretty fast and eat and drink whatever we wanted all the time! Also, there needs to be a balance between making the most of the time we have now and planning for later life. Some of you may have already achieve everything you want in life and if you have, that’s great. I still have a few things to tick of my list before the lights go out.

You live…sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book…or you take a trip and you discover that you are not living, you are hibernating

Anais Nin

I’ve come to realise I need to prioritise what I won’t be able to do later in life. This will be something different for everyone. Some will want to start a family, other people may want to open a business or go skydiving. I would love to get a dog but I can do that any time. Short term, it’s travel and hiking for us — both of which rely on good health and a job that gives us the freedom to do so. And we have both of these things for now.

Good health is something we all take for granted. When you’re young, it’s hard to imagine a time when your body will hold you back. I hadn’t considered this until we met a lovely Canadian couple on a fjord cruise in Bergen. They use to do a fair amount of walking and exploring and said:

Do it while you’re young. When you get to our age, you have to worry about packing things like anti-inflammatories and even then, it takes you a few days to recover .

Hiking in the mist

When I’m old and my knees sound like pepper grinders, I want it to be because I’ve walked up and down mountains rather than solely because I’m old. Hopefully I will have memories and photos to look back on with a smile on my face, as I sit with Scott and a dog curled up between us.

I had a few opportunities to travel when I was younger but I never did for various reasons. Sometimes I wasn’t feeling braving enough or I didn’t have the money. But the thing I regret the most is not going because other people didn’t want me to. I wouldn’t change anything about where I am now because I’m really happy with my life but I’m also fortunate in that I have time ahead of me to finally do those things. I’m incredibly lucky I can do them with Scott.

Now you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about death at the beginning of a new year when life should be golden and hopeful. Well that’s why. It’s a time when many of us are reflecting on the next twelve months and what we want to accomplish. I’d like this to post to inspire you to book the trip you’ve been dreaming about or finally take up that new hobby!

3 Comments

  1. I love this post so much! I actually sometimes sit and think about death too – it’s really scary! Especially when you hear stories of people the same age or younger especially, being taken way too soon and all the things they missed out on. That’s why the past couple years I’ve started travelling whenever I can – because of course I’d love to be able to do it when I’m older too, but I know for sure it wouldn’t be the same experience!
    xo April | April Everday

    • Gemma Evans

      Thanks so much April! That gets to me too, which is why I think it’s all the more important to make good use of the time you have now. As you say, not everyone has that chance. I’m hoping I’ll still be able to travel when I’m old but it will probably be at a much slower pace 🙂

  2. Dear Gemma. Your post really hit me as I have wrestled with some of the same thoughts as you (and still do).

    I believe that the thinking of the old Greek stoicists helps me because the essence of their philosophy (very simplified) is that you can only live life to the fullest when your are aware of your own mortality – when you are aware of the fact that you are going to die. By having that in mind you focus your life on what’s important. It should not be a constant thought but it is important to remind yourself of that fact once and a while.

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