At the tender age of twenty one, if I had been asked, and stopped for even a minute to think about it I would have undoubtedly dismissed the question as irrelevant. What question? THE QUESTION - what happens when you die? At that age no one dwells on the concept of dieing and although anyone can die at any age - through accident or other misfortune the attitude of most of the young is that they are invincible and thoughts of end of life - unless suicide is contemplated - are mostly far from their thoughts.
As we progress through the steps to maturity - and undertake the responsibility of home and a family the concept might be addressed in a practical but distant manner - provision by way of a Will and Insurances of various types to provide for the family we might leave behind - BUT - the concept of our own death is still not seriously considered. Perhaps the unexpected onset of a serious illness or accident might make us stop and take stock of the possibility but still death is not a subject we seriously consider as an immediate possibility. Most of us expect to live into our old age - and - that will be soon enough to face the unpleasant possibility.
Then we wake up one morning and find we HAVE grown old. The onset of old age always seems to arrive unexpectedly - and for some - sooner than expected. When we are young and strong and supposedly "bullet proof" the broken bone, the sports injury, the illness is something we rightly expect to get over and come out the other side. We fail to consider that those injuries and illnesses might have a cumulative effect, but I believe they do. When I was a child I was one of the many thousands who became a victim of the polio epidemic - that took three years from my life - but - I got over it - I was judged fit and strong enough and passed the medical examinations when I applied for service in the armed forces. I was injured in the course of that service - and - I got over it. Like many others I suffered a broken bone or two in the course of my life - and - once again - I got over it.
Then I came to that age where retirement is thrust upon us - I had no option - the Armed forces have strict rules in that regard and so the first signal of approaching mortality was waved in my face - I ignored it - I was fit, still strong and had had the good fortune to suffer no other serious illnesses. I had a pilot's licence - I drove a motor car - and participated in motor sport - I still practiced Martial Arts and could run a mile in under ten minutes - Death? Old Age? What's that? Who cares? - I'd made the necessary arrangements years ago - A Will - Funeral Arrangements - all the stuff that a responsible person considers necessary - but I was going to live to be a hundred - and get the Queen's - or the King's Telegram - yeah - right.
I faced mandatory retirement at age fifty five and in my fifty ninth year my legs started to give me problems - a combination the doctors said - Post Polio Syndrome and cumulative damage resulting from injuries - the second signal of approaching mortality - I ignored that too. There continued to be a number of signs of deterioration due to approaching old age - so I slowed down - a bit. Then in my sixty eight year I caught a cold. Big deal - I rugged up, took some cough medicine and blew my nose when required. The cold developed into Bronchitis - so I went to see my Doctor and listened carefully to what he suggested - I followed his advice - to the letter - the bronchitis developed into pneumonia - I ended up in hospital. I've been a smoker since I was aged fifteen and I ignored all the advice to give that up to - now I have been diagnosed with something called COPD - Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. I've finally given up smoking - not because I want to but because I have no bloody option - if I smoke - I can't breath! The third signal of approaching mortality and finally I decided I better think about it.
I'd like to make my eightieth year - with a bit of luck - perhaps my mid eighties - when I was in my mid forties I would have said - "that's a good innings" but I'm nearly sixty nine now - so my eightieth year is only eleven years away!!! Bloody hell - that's not long - I have things to do - but I'm older now - and slower - things take time - and some of them hurt these days - The legs play up and I can't run at all much anymore - they've taken my pilot's licence off me - and I can't pass the medical to race cars - Martial arts?? Forget it!
Damn - I should have taken notice of those signals!! I think I might be mortal after all