The Grim Reaper

It was the salmon mousse

The dinner party scene in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life commented on death.

The idea one could refuse to accept it, especially when it appeared unexpectedly as the result of something seemingly innocuous or that there was no ‘fear’ of death involved is telling.

When I was young, I was terribly afraid of dogs.

My mother taught me – “they’ll bite”, “you’ll get rabies and die” (this was a while ago!).

I lost my fear when I acquired Amber, my Irish Setter, from the skipper of ‘British Diver’ in Plymouth, I think it was 1980.

Since then I’ve always loved dogs and don’t feel afraid of anything

I could say I have no fear – I find it extremely hard to get that feeling.

No fear of flying, spiders, bats, rats or anything else really.

Certainly, absolutely no fear of death.

But there was one thing, as a child I was frightened of pictures of rough seas, particularly waves crashing onto rocks or cliffs.

We spent a lot of holidays in Folkestone (my grandmother owned a hotel) and the sea was often rather rough and I was fascinated getting up close to the waves breaking over the sea wall and on the rocks and cliffs nearby – no fear whatsoever in real life – it was just those black and white pictures.

Odd, because I knew they couldn’t do me any harm and weren’t going to kill me – unlike the salmon mousse.

I knew from about 10 that death wasn’t the end of life, this didn’t come from some idea of going to heaven or anything like that. I knew then it was just a transition from one state to another and that the Soul goes on for ever.

When we transition we get a choice. We choose, as an immortal Soul, what we wish to do next. Lots of options I may have alluded to before.

I’ve seen a few dead bodies in my time and the first thing that strikes you when you see one is emptiness. A discarded shell of a creature that has grown and moved on.

Dying is not something terrible that happens to you, it’s about what happens to those we leave behind who believe that their existence is in some way dependent on us and we will deprive them of ourselves.

The tears are not for us, they are for themselves, their loss, not ours.

You and I lose nothing through death. We have reached the end of the experiential journey we came for and have moved on.

But fear of death is strong and is used by those who crave power to influence other people.

Don’t eat the salmon mousse – it’ll kill you. Don’t go near it, don’t look at it, don’t touch it, don’t even think about it or you’ll die.

But people still die, from something else they ate at the dinner party.

The last time I felt fear I was driving a boat off Padstow on a diving trip. We’d come to the end of the dive and picked up all the divers but two and I was heading towards their marker buoy to signal to them it was time to come up.

But the buoy was adrift, they weren’t on the other end of the rope.

‘Houston, we have a problem’

They should have surfaced by now, so we criss-crossed the area looking. We were in sight of shore and guessed they’d be swimming in that direction.

No sign.

After 10 minutes I sent up a flare to get help, then a second 10 minutes later.

I was getting frightened and I have to admit not for them; I was frightened for me. The paperwork, the enquiry, the retribution of their families, the damage to my reputation and business – the list goes on.

Fuel low – back to shore.

There they were, sitting on a rocky ledge neat the lighthouse, they’d been in and had a cup of tea, they’d seen the flares, so the lifeboat wasn’t launched, they knew it was about them.

It was probably the last time I’ve felt that level of relief.

Fear of falling and fear of sudden loud noises are all we are born with and the first doesn’t last that long. We are not instinctively afraid of death.

It’s something we’ve been taught. Dying is natural, dying is what we do, part of existence. We transition when we choose to and people have been known to ‘make mistakes’ and ‘come back’.

We go when we choose to go, and no amount of fear can change that.

Fear is always about us in this life, something ‘bad’ might happen.

Don’t do this or that – or do this or that or you might die.

But when you or I choose to die it’s not a ‘bad’ thing.

All the same, watch out for the salmon mousse.