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Nothing Ever Lasts Forever....


The only certainty in life is death. This is a sentence I find myself saying on the regular when people ask what I do for a job. When I tell them I'm an undertaker, they usually reply with something along the lines of (with a hint of sarcasm) "Well you'll never be out of work!" My response is often quite sobering to them, I don't know if they expect me to say something different, or possibly say nothing at all. Just smile solemnly and nod at their wit? However, I stand by my response, because frankly it's unfortunately but unarguably true. Everything else in life is chance, destiny, fate, a result of hard work or a reaction of bad luck, but death, that's the end on which you can depend. Statistically we are alive for longer with the current life expectancy for the UK in 2023 being 80.77 years, and this got me thinking about the longer those we love are here, the longer we want them to stay. It may sound an extremely obvious statement, especially the second half but for so many of us these days the first experience of grief and loss is as adults, not as teenagers or even younger as it would have been in the past. We become less connected with the reality of mortality as we ourselves age. We throw around the word forever everyday, I've had these shoes forever, I've worked here forever, I've been in this traffic jam forever!! So when it comes to the life of those we love, forever seems like a standard. When I was younger, and my OCD was flourishing like a perfectly curated garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, I would use various methods to try to ensure the people I loved the most would live forever. Rituals like touching every bit of wood in my room whilst saying their names, or reciting prayers for each of them individually and saying "Amen" an increased amount of times as I went along. I would wake up exhausted as I'd spent half the night asking people in heaven I'd never met to watch over my family but then feel rather smug when I came down for breakfast and my Mum was pottering around the kitchen. "You're welcome for this day" I'd think. Spending an awful lot of my childhood concerned about when the Grim Reaper would appear came full circle when in year nine a careers quiz at school gave me the result of "Your ideal job is a ....Funeral Director!" And it took a while but I finally got there (I also had therapy for anyone concerned I still wander around my room at night searching for a bit of life preserving oak or pine) Inbetween then and now, my Grandad died. And that was really shit. But I'll tell you what was worse, the dying. Death is the end yes. Doctors can tell you how long someone has left to live roughly, how long an illness will take on average to reach it's grand finale, but that bit when they are dying, that's the killer. I thought my Grandparents would always be there, always and forever obviously. I had said all the right things, to the right people, in the right places. So when my Grandad became really poorly, really quickly, I was to be honest baffled. I knew he would die from his diagnoses but I didn't think about the dying. A great and very missed woman once said "Grief is the price we pay for love" and I'd like to tag onto that, "Pre-grief is the price we pay for longevity" Pre-grief is the loss before you lose them. And the longer your forever with that person lasts, the harder it is to imagine them just not being there. I wish we could be grateful for the longer we have had the person, I wish that gratitude could transfer into preparation or acceptance for the ineviatble, but it can't. That would be too simple. Death takes no prisoners, and grief knows no boundaries, social, emotional or physical. There is no timescale on it either. Medical teams can tell you how long they estimate your loved one has left, and then you will Google every possible eventuality of how you maybe able to change the path, but how long you will feel sad for, that's a unanswerable question. I also wish I could offer some enlightening advice, a magical bit of wisdom I'd learnt in my years of been surrounded by "the bit after the end", but all I have is this. You've got them till you haven't, and while you have, make it amazing. You don't need to jump out of planes together, or fill every moment with something extraodinary, because just having those moments, thats the extraodinary bit. Some people don't get a warning when it's about to be over. Some don't even get a fair enough chance before it ends. That doesn't mean your grief isn't allowed to be justifed. But those moments you're having now, just try to really appreciate them, before you try to wish (or knock on wood) for more.

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