Well, here we are at the start of 2012. Normally I wouldn’t hesitate in wishing everyone a Happy New Year. But somehow I can’t bring myself to use the word ‘happy’. Not when we are confronted by such global uncertainty.
Yet on a twelve miles walk yesterday across magnificent Cotswold countryside it was easy to forget the seriousness of what humanity is facing. Thank goodness for that. I think the human spirit can take so much gloom and despondency before it innately begins to seek out something to soothe and calm the soul.
The walk certainly did that for me. It always makes me marvel to know – and trust – that the untidy mess of mouldy undergrowth and all those tight brown buds on skeletal branches will turn within not-so-many weeks into verdant hedgerows and flourishing trees.
For me, this cycle of life and death is truly miraculous and hope-filled. So hope-filled that when I returned home, I updated my living will (also known as Advanced Decision). This clearly states that I do not wish to receive life prolonging treatments or to be resuscitated if and when my quality of life deteriorates beyond what is acceptable to me. This includes dementia related illnesses. It was witnessed by a close friend, with a willing and enthusiastic flourish of her pen. That is what I call a New Year present.
Setting aside the current cross-party political debate about who is going to pay for end-of-life care for increasing numbers of elderly people, I believe that taking personal responsibility for how I want to end my life is the most significant decision I can make for my family, and, indeed, for society as a whole.
Dying back in the natural world is about clearing away the ‘old’ to make room for the new. It is also about dead vegetation creating rich compost for fresh life to thrive.
Unfortunately it appears that humanity is hell-bent on trying to cheat this fundamental law of nature. But it won’t work. Nature is already fighting back, in ways that we can’t – or don’t want to – imagine.
So my 2012 New Year wish is for us all to stop chasing the illusive state of happiness. Rather, I wish for us to learn to embrace and accept our mortality. By doing so, maybe we can experience what it feels like to truly give back to each other.