Death and me have a long history. My first experience of it was when I went on my first camping trip. Before I left for the four day adventure, I spent a long evening with my budgie, Sandy. Sandy and me were great mates. I used to get him out of his cage and he’d sit on my shoulder picking holes in my 70s nylon T-shirt. I loved that little bird.
When I got home, the first thing I did was rush to Sandy’s cage to say hello. It was gone. Distraught, I ran around the 1950s council house looking for him. I found my Mum on the stairs carrying some bed sheets. “Where’s Sandy gone?”
“He’s dead” she said, and then turned back to her chores.
It transpired that Sandy annoyed my Mum and as soon as I was out the door, she popped him into the barn to enjoy a bit of peace from all the chirping and tweeting. Only problem was, the barn was not heated and it had been zero degrees or lower while I was braving the great outdoors.
Sandy froze to death.
Next up for the great toll booth in the sky was my Grandad, Sydney Ellingham. I didn’t get to see him much, but I did witness my Mum bawling her eyes out for days on end. Turns out his fondness for beef dripping on toast and a pipe were not the best ingredients for a long life. He tripped over a dog and carcked it on the way down to the pavement, his heart no longer being up to the job at the age of 60-something.
Then, in 1982, death hit me really hard when my fantastic Great Grandfather, Joseph Nightingale Wooding, with whom I’d spent endless days gardening, woodworking and listening to his tall stories, bit the bullet from Parkinsons and lung cancer at the age of 79. I loved him so much we named our first son after him. I remember when he knew he was going he called for me. I went into his bedroom, which was surrounded by grown-up members of the family. I held his hand and he cried. The family then ushered me out of the room, which was a decision I don’t think they should have made in retrospect, but then again everyone was upset and not thinking straight. Conforming. That’s what they were doing, which is fine in those circumstances.
“Pap”, as I called him, once gave me a copy of the Bible and said to me “The answers are all in here son”. He also told me about the time he woke up at 3am to have a fag in bed (my wife would not approve) to witness Jesus appear in his room wagging his finger at him. Now I’m a Dad I think now that may have been his way of putting me off smoking, but it’s taken me 32 years to realise that.
(Ironically I did start smoking at the age of 19 precisely because of all the death I’d experienced made me think “what the hell?” anyway. Sorry Pap x)
Then Pap’s wife, my Nan Alice Wooding, died at a distance after the family put her in a home after she’d been found wandering around the village at 4am with my Pap’s sandwiches for work in her hand, looking for him. I sat crying with “The Power of Love” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood on a loop for hours that day.
It was my 37 year-old Dad’s turn to pop his clogs next. This one fucked me up for more than 20 years because he was my best friend and I was the one that had to make the decision to turn off his life support after all attempts to revive him after his brain hemorrhage had failed and the next of kin (Mum) was catatonic with shock and unable to answer the questions from the doctors. I spent two decades thinking I’d killed him.
Then came the suicides. First one was a guy I was in the RAF with, Mark Davies. I remember turning up at the Squadron to fly a sortie at 9am and the CFI was in a flap. He looked at me and said “There’s been a fatality” (his lack of compassion still irks me, but he was a complete wanker) then ordered me to go down to Southport beach to pick up the pieces of a very broken aeroplane. Turns our Mark, who was a very talented chap, had fallen out with his fiance. He decided to fly his Bulldog training aircraft down the High Street in Southport, where she worked, waggle his wings, pull up and then spin into the beach. Apparently a man walking his dog ran up to the plane to rescue him, smelt petrol and ran. They had to identify Mark by his teeth at the age of nineteen. I could have told him it was far too young to get engaged if I’d had the chance. He should have just shagged around like I did. Far easier.
The RAF covered it up of course. A technical fault, or some other bullshit, they said on the tellybox (not the first time I realised they lie to the mass population about everything all the time, but I digress).
Second suicide was another Mark from the RAF. This one was an engineer who was under enormous pressure from his parents to get top grades on his final University exams. I know this because we met on a bus in Manchester on the way to some exams two weeks before he stabbed himself through the heart with a kitchen knife at the top of the car park down from the Lass O’Gowrie pub in Manchester. I found out about this one because his face was plastered over the front of the Manchester Evening News that I bought on my way into the same pub after my final Economics exam.
Then there was Katy Charlton, my lovely ex-girlfriend. We spoke on the phone after she’d been sectioned when she told me that “This is hell”. I was like, “Yeah I know it’s a bit bonkers but..”. “No, Mark. This really is hell”. And that’s what she meant. This is hell. I still don’t know exactly what drew her to this conclusion. Her mother intimated to me at her funeral that she would not have done this if I had not dumped her 6 years previously, which was a bit of a head fuck at the time. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it might have something to do with the fact that her Dad had left the family of four girls after she’d joined a religious cult in my village, started by a pedophile called Noel Stanton, called the Jesus Army or the fact that her Grandad, who was Monty’s right hand man in the war, was also paid as a special adviser on the film “Scandal” to make sure that a certain royal was kept out of all the sex party scenes (presumably because he was actually at those sex parties. Just guessing).
The list goes on, as I’m sure your own does.
Samuel Johnson said there are two things in life you can rely on. Death and taxes. I personally think he said “Death and taxis”, but that this was altered by the government in the 1800s as part of the propaganda to make you submit to the idea of taxation but, again, I digress.
So, imagine my surprise to stumble across the website of Professor Robert Lanza and find that death is actually just an illusion. He claims that the theory of biocentrism teaches that death as we know it is an illusion created by our consciousness.
This is quantum physics folks.
Check him out:
He says that life creates the Universe, not the other way round. This is some big shit. If you’ve read any of my blog, you’ll know that I talk about the fact that we create our own Universe. That the power of our minds, through affirmations of what we want to be, creates that reality for us. So, this guy speaks to me. With sciencey stuff to help confirm I’m not a complete space cadet.
Biocentrism is the the “Theory of Everything” and comes from the Greek for “Life Centre”. Lanza says that humans believe in death because ‘we’ve been taught we die’. More specifically, our consciousness associates life with bodies and we know that bodies die.
He talks about the fact that we see the sky as blue but that our cells could be changed to make us see the sky as red. That biology, not physics, is at the centre of our reality, or can give us the answers to what this life on Earth all means. By looking at the Universe in this way, it also means that space and time do not behave the way we think they do – they are just “constructs” of our consciousness, therefore “Death” does not exist in the way that we think it does.
If space and time are “simply tools of our mind”, as Lanza suggests, then death simply isn’t real, it’s an illusion.
Here he is on space and time:
So, how does this all fit in with all the tears and anxieties and depression and gravestones and missing the people we love?
It’s a game. It’s a game we have put ourselves into. We are here to learn one single lesson: to love one another. Unconditionally.
The illusion of death is part of that process.
My wife said to me very wisely (as she is apt to do): “Death is not the opposite of life. It’s the opposite of birth”. Don’t know if she nicked it from anyone, but it doesn’t matter. It makes sense, doesn’t it?
Death, like life, should be full of humour, not sadness. The whole notion of everyone crying at a funeral is absurd. We should be celebrating, not balling our eyes out.
When my Dad died, I paid a visit to a very good friend called Catherine. Her Mum and Dad were brilliant. They smoked, swore and wore kaftans round the house. I loved them. Cathy’s Mum was the only person who didn’t trot out some meme like “I’m sorry” or any of the other stuff we find so hard to say when someone has died. She looked at me in the eye and said “This will be good for you”.
I felt confused at the time. Part of me was angry with her.
But it says something for her that all these years later, that was the best thing anyone said to me at that time.
As John Lennon said, it’s like getting out of one car and into another: