In-between stints in hospital last year, there was a madness in my head about sorting out the administrative, legal, practical aspects of living, which seemingly – no, definitely – needed attention before death.
It’s the weirdest thing, sending someone a message, “hello, I’m sorry I can’t make the deadline to do that thing we agreed on, I’m dying and have to sort out some other things”.
There were plans to abort, commitments to shelve, employers to advise, thesis supervisors to inform, old and new contracts to examine, powers to confer, options to consider, prospects to explore, places to confirm (and not for the hereafter!), documents to sign, offices to resign.
These all would endure, perhaps only play out, when I was no longer able to take conscious decisions for myself, or dead. Many of them were (remain) essential aspects of dealing with mortality, others were simply driven by the emotional upheaval of the moment.
It became the worst kind of paper- and stuff-shuffling exercise. There was so much mess and clutter accumulated over 55 years of life. Still is. Some of it wasn’t even my own doing. There were obligations imposed on me by others over which I had had no control (bless your heart and your belief in my integrity, Tim, although you didn’t factor in my own weak heart!).
After having put off so much over such a long time, there was an urgency now to deal with it all.
And then there were aspects of my life that, on the surface, appeared less tangible than the administrative stuff yet were the most important of all, the relationships I had neglected consciously or unintentionally, the harms that I had caused to others, the hurts that had been wrought on me which still dogged me. These relationships needed mending and maintaining. Part of writing my story on this blog was to be able to communicate with as many people as possible simultaneously. But there are some communications which require a direct connection, it can’t be left to the ether.
Bizarrely – maybe not? – some of the time I spent lying in a hospital bed, I focused on how I wanted my loved ones to gather at a funeral or memorial service. In the preceding few years I had been to (more correctly, participated in) one too many memorial service which had simply been an organisational disaster from start to finish. I wanted to avoid that, so drew up a programme which reflected how I would have wanted to be commemorated.
Not surprisingly and as many others will attest to, I failed dismally in sorting out both the tangible and intangible life issues. Probably even the memorial service draft I wrote down would have been a bit of a disaster. Thankfully it wasn’t needed just then. I guess it wasn’t just the urgency of time constraints that threw my efforts at tidying up my life, it was the psychological wheel-spinning, perhaps even the inability due to medication to deal coherently with all the challenges I faced.
It has taken me this long to make a dent in the life messes that I accumulated over the years, beginning to shred tons of paperwork, clear desks and files, sort out unfinished business, address the relational challenges, make amends, celebrate others anew. Of course, I won’t ever be finished, none of us can be. We’ll always leave some things undone.
I realise again and again that my dictum of “one day at a time”, evident before and in the immediate recovery after my transplant, has remained true throughout this past year.