At our age, it’s more funerals than weddings -
both equally good for catching up on gossip
although now more usually about whose suffering
from what than who’s sleeping with whom - whose hip
joint is ceramic, or whose by-passed heart
pumps as well as the one they were gifted at the start.
Then the big C-word - the weird one-upmanship
of comparing which particular body part
is caught in that disease’s pincer grip,
and calculating the chances of survival.
We note when memory begins to slip -
a first sign of Alzheimer’s? The removal
chapter by chapter of the storied self,
a death before a second death, by stealth.
Yet there’s always the occasional daredevil
boozing and smoking, and still in robust health . . .
But courage should mean a brutally frank appraisal:
life’s just an actuarial calculation
and there’s only one direction for our travel -
towards, surely, complete annihilation.
It’s strange that such farewells are called a wake
when friends go out forever, and daybreak
won’t bring them back, or herald their salvation,
or comfort those who loved them, for whose sake
we offer words we all pretend can ease the ache.
First published The Spectator 1 April 2017