it’s better to accept the facts of death

From The Telegraph:

IanBanks_2528826bIain Banks has written startlingly dark, intelligent novels – most notably The Wasp Factory – but tells the world that the new one will be the last. He announces his coming death with characteristic humour but without darkness, only frank resignation: “I am officially Very Poorly.” He has gall bladder cancer and counts his remaining life in months. He asked his partner, Adele Hartley, “to do me the honour of becoming my widow”, apologising for the “ghoulish humour”. All public appearances are cancelled in favour of seeing friends and relatives. He has gone on honeymoon and reports via a friend that he is in Italy “enjoying life to the max”. There is an admirable breezy gallantry and good example about the way in which public people have begun to take back ownership of their own mortality, kicking away the cobwebs of terror and denial and dispelling the sickly, deceptive miasma of false hope. It is not the same as ''giving up” or refusing to “fight” (terminal cancer patients get really sick of that language, with its implication that if they were a bit more positive they’d get better). There is a time to fight and hope for life, but when modern medicine, despite its bias in favour of prolonging life at all costs, admits that it can do no more, acceptance is healthy. Use the time, smell the roses, speak your love.

Dennis Potter said, when he was dying, that looking at spring outside the window had become marvellous. “The whitest, frothiest, blossomest blossom that there ever could be, and I can see it… the nowness of everything is absolutely wondrous, the glory of it, the comfort of it, the reassurance… The fact is, if you see the present tense, boy do you see it! And boy can you celebrate it.” More recently, Terry Pratchett confronted his illness with a riveting, troubling exploration of the Dignitas assisted suicide clinic, in which he publicly considered whether he would want to take that route rather than decline into helplessness. He came to no conclusion, but examined medical research into the illness with the words: “I’m going to make Alzheimer’s sorry it got ME!” He does not pretend that any day now he will be cured, however. He is grown-up enough to know better, and to know, as Iain Banks does, that death has made an appointment. Accepting this, in the long or the short term, is the ultimate test of adulthood: when Damien Hirst titled his pickled shark, The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living, he revealed nothing but his own callow youth.

More here.