Remember Thou Shalt Die

When I was a schoolboy we learnt about the Roman Empire. One of the things we learnt was that, after defeating his enemies,  Caesar would have a victory parade back in Rome. At his side was a servant with an unusual charge: along the road he had to whisper “Remember thou shalt die” in Caesar’s ear.

This reminder of death is healthy. We prefer not to think about it. This goes for us all, Christians just as much as any others. Just as for Caeser our lives too will end, regardless of how good they might be or how rich we are.

Woody Allen is supposed to have said that he wasn’t afraid of dying; he just didn’t want to be around at the time. His joke says much about our relationship to this theme. It is not only an unpleasant one, but we would prefer rather not think about it at all.

Of course we know that we are going to die. We also know that for many death follows sickness and suffering. It is therefore understandable that we would rather go with Caeser along life’s parade, without thinking too much about this. Yet the fact is that about a third of the population will get cancer at some point or other, and it goes without saying that many of those who do will not be able to die at home when their cancers become terminal.

A hospice is a place specially built for such people. As you can read in Wikipedia, the concept is relatively new. Indeed the first time I ever heard about it was when I was yet a fifteen year old at Adwick School. That was when they were working to establish the first hospice where I then lived. I was not at all ready for it; indeed I remember how I cringed, almost with loathing, at the thought of a hospital you entered only to die!

However this is about being mature. Yes this is a very unpleasant subject, but it is quite literally deadly serious for everyone of us. That is why we cannot afford to sweep it under the carpet. We can all contract a terminal illness, and as of today the most common place for the terminally ill is an old people’s home – regardless of how young they may be. Even if one is sent to die in a hospital, this is hardly an ideal solution.

It is completely wrong to think of hospices as places of death! They are able to give specialized palliative care and medication so that the patients are able to make the most of that little time they yet have. There have specialized psychiatrists and clergy to cater for their needs. The doctors and nurses walk about in ordinary clothes, and one does everything one can to make the place as comfortable and homely as possible. This is not about death so much as it is about the dignity of human life when that sadly is coming to an end.

Norway has only a few hospices – and the word “hospice” is not even in the dictionary. One hospice is in Bergen – I have made this a beneficiary in my Will – but this is far from enough for such a large land as we live in.

I will challenge our politicians, I will challenge the Rotary Club, I will challenge the Freemasons, the Lions – yea all who have some influence in our society to put this matter on their agenda! What about, dear local politicians, making Lødingen lead the region by proposing a hospice here (instead of or in addition to a prison at Nes)? Naturally after having applied for a grant from the State? And if others like the Rotary Club, the Freemasons, the Lions or others will support you?

I know that I have very limited influence. All I have is this little blog that I hope, out of my own egoism, that somebody reads every now or then. Yet I do know there are men and women among us who have a lot of it. Hospices are something our society sorely needs! If I have done only a little to be able to put the spotlight on this, I am content.

We need hospices in Norway. Why can we not start one here in the North? We need indeed the word “hospice” to be a part of the Norwegian dictionary.