Freed to live more fully…

When Jill Kenner had to face the prospect of her own death, she realised she had begun the process of contemplation of it long before

Forest glade | Photo: Flickr/RJ Wagner CC-BY

Three years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Recently I learned that the cancer had come back, with a possible secondary, which needed exploration. This gave me a sudden and sharp reminder of my mortality. My heart sank. If it came to the point would I, I wondered, be able to contemplate my own death with equanimity, as our Advices ask of us? When I think about it more closely, however, I realise that over the past ten years of my ageing I have, intermittently and in various ways, already begun such contemplations. This realisation comforts me and gives me strength.  Let me give you some examples. Six years ago I decided to dedicate – in perpetuity, via the Woodland Trust – a woodland clearing in Wales in the names of my late husband and myself. It is a beautiful clearing, partly bounded by a stream, and with a single ash tree in its centre round which my ashes will be scattered when I die. A simple wooden seat has been put there, with a plaque upon it giving my husband’s name and dates, and the rectangle for my plaque next to his has already been chiselled out, which I experience as a reassurance rather than a threat. I visit the clearing with my family, and we talk about this husband, father and grandfather with affection and humour. As we do so I am aware that they will continue these visits when I am gone, and talk about us both. This feeling of continuity pleases me, for it is as it should be.

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