Recently, amongst the very old and gnarled apple trees in the garden, we planted a young quince tree. It's about eight feet tall, and not yet fruiting. It will get there eventually, but I won't see it reach the size and character of its neighbours even though I hope some day to be able to candy its quinces for Christmas.
When you're young, death for most people is a mercifully distant thing. You know it exists and you see the impact it has on people around you, but until it starts to creep closer towards you, I don't think you fully understand just how final the end is when it comes.
Until the past few years, I'd only really seen one death close enough to me to full its full impact. There had been bereavements of which I'd been aware but the first funeral I ever went to was that of a close family member. I'd only ever felt distant tremors before, and now the firm ground on which I stood was being shaken by something much closer to home. In the past few years, the reaper has appeared much closer to home on a couple of occasions (written about previously here and here).
The more times you see death strike people down close to you the more you realise that it really does come to us all in the end. There is no avoiding it. Every one of our paths will run out eventually. Every one of us will one day take their very final step.
I've never thought of death as a subject to be avoided. Of course I'd avoid it around people who've recently suffered a bereavement but only for fear of interrupting their grieving process not for fear of the subject itself. There's a taboo surrounding death which has fallen away from subjects such as faith, race and sex in recent years. But despite the shift towards a more open and liberal society in recent years, it seems that there's still a curtain hung around the subject of death which few dare to pull back for the world to see.
I don't find the fact that we'll all die someday as worthy of mourning; I'll let others mourn me when I'm gone rather than spending the finite time before then lamenting the inevitable. I see the realisation that life is finite as a positive motivator to spend life well. It's a limited resource and it seems a shame to waste it. So let's remember those who have gone fondly, be sorrowful that we no longer get to make new memories but remember that it's not disrespectful to continue to live a full life when someone close to you is gone.
When my time finally comes, I want to look back with as few regrets as possible.
Living life well is the only way to make that possible.