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
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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