As we get older this is a topic which we often think about. We plan as best we can for other parts of our lives, such as where we intend to live as we get older, and what we plan to do with what is left of our lives and, although these plans have to be fairly flexible as we can’t be sure about our state of health, we can still make broad plans. Death, on the other hand, is a complete unknown for most of us. Not only will it one day visit us but it will visit our friends and relatives as well and importantly, none of us usually know when.

These thoughts have been sparked by being told yesterday that my oldest friend, part of my longest friendship, had passed away. It wasn’t completely unexpected as she was in her nineties but the question of ‘when?’ was never clear. We now live in different cities so most of our contact had to be by email but even with this we were restricted as she often didn’t have the energy to write them or even read them. Much of the time we knew each other so well we didn’t need to communicate much towards the end except for main events such as news of grandchildren and their successes.

Even though her death wasn’t entirely unexpected it was still sad to know that she is no longer there. How do I think she herself felt? Her last days, in medical terms, was fairly short although the deterioration which preceded it lasted for many years. Each time I visited her I noticed that she could do less and less and everything became an effort for her. Fortunately she had a helper which made my visits less of a burden and more of a pleasure for both of us but even so seeing her slowly become less able was hurtful as I remembered all the good times, and silly times, we had had in the past. The last time I visited her, a few months ago, saying goodbye was particularly difficult as I think we both felt that it was likely to be our last. It was like a shared, and sad, understanding between us.

So how do I think she felt when the end came. Fortunately she had someone with her who could help her to let go but I suspect that she was quite relieved to let go of a body which had started to put such a strain on her and restricted her life.

It’s sad to think that in spite of mankind having largely tamed this world for our requirements, and with plans underfoot to travel to one of the other planets, we still have no real, physical, tangible proof of what happens to us when we leave this life. Is that the end or do we go on to another life somewhere? Maybe it is part of the challenge of this life that we have to wait to find out.

Meanwhile may my friend of so many decades enjoy being free of the restrictions her body was putting on her and may her spirit be free to soar as it did when we were both young.