When I retired as a humanist celebrant I thought I'd stop writing this blog, but my fascination with all things death-related prompted more posts. They're just written from a slightly different perspective, that's all. Oh, and I still do the odd one, by special request.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Those with the most problems were those who had not sorted out their ideas...

This is from an obituary for Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the hospice movement, who died in 2005.
Though the philosophy underlying St Christopher's was Christian, it welcomed patients of any persuasion or none. Cicely Saunders noticed that those who coped best always had a shining faith, but that atheists often died as peacefully as Christians. The people with the most problems were those who had not sorted out their ideas. Clergymen, oddly, and the affluent, often turned out to have the most difficulty.

9 comments:

Charles Cowling said...

Ah, now, that's very intriguing and it's got me thinking -- well, speculating.

Margaret said...

When you're done speculating, please share your thoughts.

Charles Cowling said...

Well, I thought this was a private reverie, but since you ask, something like this.

Rich folk are easy. Money buys a bypass to all manner of life's little inconveniences; it confers a sense of inviolability together with a sense of not being as others are (ie a long way above). Galling to be levelled.

But clergypersons? I suppose it may have to do with being brought face to face with the necessity to come down on one side or the other of the doubts which have pursued you through life. I suppose absolute conviction and unflinching certainty to be the state of mind of very few.

Doctors are said to be bad at dying - something that only happens to other people. I wonder about undertakers? Celebrants? It possibly comes down to a sense of status vis a vis the dying and the bereaved.

Dangerous to generalise, of course. Do you have any theories?

Margaret Nelson said...

No theories. Agree with you about the affluent, but I don't think that many people sort out their ideas until they're well into their dotage, that's if they still have the faculties to sort anything out. It was probably very different a couple of centuries ago, if not less, when birth and death were things that you were likely to witness far more often. Now that these things are tidied away in special places - hospitals, mainly - it's become easier to tidy the thought of death away too. Squeamishness has something to do with it as well, I think.

I hope that I can retain my sense of humour at the end, if I have time to enjoy a joke or two, to help dispel any gloom that may accumulate at my bedside. My son has been instructed to throw a bucket of cold water over my sister if she gets too tired and emotional. I love her dearly but she can be relied upon to make a drama out of a crisis, and I'd like to die in peace.

gloriamundi said...

Margaret, I love the idea of your dripping wet relatives being stunned into silence so you can get on with your last important job!

But I hope that bucket of water is not necessary for a long time yet.

Margaret Nelson said...

Thanks. Me too.

Charles Cowling said...

Unhappiest by far are those who die terrified.

Dry, wry and bracing to the end, Margaret. We expect nothing else.

Important to do it well, with courage and cheerfulness. No better legacy, and a stern responsibility. Harder and harder to do in these days of protracted decrepitude.

Margaret Nelson said...

Thanks Charles.

“Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.” I think that Somerset Maugham said this to his nephew shortly before he died.

Charles Cowling said...

Understatement is delicious at any time, but perhaps no more delicious than when uttered from a deathbed. Serious stuff, humour.