Most people do not like talking about death, notably that of living family members but especially of their own. My family does not like to hear me talking of mine.  When I was a kid, puritanism and puerile prudishness prevented people from using words like penis and vagina.  Even innocent under-garments were referred to as “unmentionables”.  The Great Unmentionable, the One-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named, however was, and still is, death.

If there is one thing that cannot be denied, it is death.  People avoid talking about it and prefer euphemisms when they must.  When it inevitably happens, we do our best to mask the reality.  In spite of all our efforts to avoid it, to postpone it, to pretend it is not going to happen, it does.  Sometimes it is expected, and often after a long period of suffering or senility, it is seen as a liberation, a relief.  Sometimes it is tragic, even unbearable, because it happens to children or young people whose future comes cruelly to a too early end.  Sometimes it is sudden.  We know death is inevitable but we prefer to be given warning signs, to prepare for the loss, though also that it not be preceded by excruciating pain.  Many still hesitate to practise the humanitarian liberation we call euthanasia.

We surround death with ceremony to which the deceased are insensitive, but which grieving survivors need as a palliative.  For military heroes, we reserve the plaintive but challenging Last Post, a fearful responsibility for the solo trumpeter playing it live to honor the dead.

My … last post on this blog was not, after all, my swan song.  People usually do not talk about their own death unless they are saying farewell at the end of a terminal illness or prior to an imminent “event” of their own choosing.  I am neither moribund nor suicidal.  Just lucid.  It’s one of the by-products of atheism, evidence of the freedom that comes from the truth that life ends definitively in death and that there is nothing either to hope for or to dread in an imagined after-life.  Meantime you’ll have to excuse me.  I have a hard day’s night ahead of me.  The more the merrier.

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