Writings

The final curtain


Seems lately death has taken center stage in our web world. A few of our most prominent public figures having passed away only days after each other have left many people in deep mourning. The latest one, Mr Alan Rickman also dead at 69 left a bereaved acting community behind and the loss of mr Bowie I see from the many posts paying homage to him in my newsfeed, left many greatly bereaved as only a true icon can.
A beautiful thing and something to take to heart is that when they are being honored, both by their peers and by the many who got inspired by them, what takes centers stage is not their artistic achievements, the grandiose imprints they left for posterity, but what stood out for people, what left a mark were their human qualities. What good friends they were, how they treated their relationships with respect, and the care with which they engaged in their world.
A long time ago in my early youth I spent two weeks working in a home for elders with senile dementia and for them as for many elderly something that was vital when going to bed or leaving their home, was to always have clean underwear. It appears as though when death is heard knocking at our doorstep, we want to move on being clean, both metaphorically and in our hearts. And to be remembered regardless of how much dirt we lived through, as having wiped the slate clean at the end.


I was fortunate enough to be present at the time my grandfather was passing away. I say passing because it was indeed a progressive continuous form of dying.
He had a series of strokes towards the later years of his life, which left him confined to his flat and unable to take care of himself so his death was a long drawn out affair. He lived very close to my father, his son, the two had as long as I can remember never seemed to have been very close, it looked from my perspective as if they had had an unspoken complex relationship throughout my fathers life, most of it speculation from my part nothing any of them would acknowledge out loud, but sometimes what is not being said speaks louder than words...
When my grandfather got confined to his flat, my father took care of him, he would every day that he could pay him a visit, read him the sports section and take care of practicalities. I don't know if they ever talked about how their relationship, but like I said, sometimes the unspoken is anyway deeply felt and understood.
My relationship to the man was until that moment one of distance, he was my fathers dad, not much more, but it so happened that when we came back to live in Sweden while we were expecting Iomi, he was approaching the end. I paid him a few visits and realized that we had much more in common than I had ever imagined. He was fascinated by the mystical and as death was coming nearer he got curious about the kind of spirituality I at the time was studying, Buddhism, yoga, karma, who we are... We ended up having interesting talks about these things, I shared some of what I had learned and we discussed at length the subject of death.
My grandfather was his whole life a hard working man who wasn't necessarily easily approachable, but towards the end he completely changed, he softened and became a warm open person. He voiced his regrets, asked to be forgiven for what he felt he needed to be forgiven for and really wiped his slate clean. I felt so lucky to be there to witness the transformation, so glad that I got the chance to get to know him. He will now always be in my mind and heart be remembered with love and warmth. That wouldn't have happened if I hadn't gotten that opportunity to reacquaint myself with him, during those last months.
When I asked him what this experience of life had taught him, he said that he now knew that life is just a loan and that the most important thing is to be a good man.

When facing the final curtain and we think ahead about our eulogy we all want to star in it as the hero of a long personal journey where lessons were learned, love deeply felt and a teaching of meaning is left for those who remembers us. We want to have endured hardship with strength heart and wisdom because after all death sums it up, what we did and didn't do and how we did it, what our purpose was. Only very few of us will celebrated like Bowie and Rickman, but all of us will, for at least a while, be thought of and remembered. Probably none of us will like Bowie, make it a public affair, very few would have the urge and drive to make their farewell into a piece of grand art, but all of us can wipe the slate clean Granpa style. Become more transparent and soften, forgive, be forgiven and move on without things left unsaid. Death and the trail of sentiment it leaves, is perhaps the biggest teacher we will ever meet.

 

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