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How Do We Handle Early Death?

Early Death
How do we handle early death? This is a subject which is seldom discussed, but can be liberating and also helpful when people do indeed open up to their feelings. Taking care of people who have lost loved ones is perhaps particularly poignant when death is seen as not being ‘natural’. This sensitive issue is discussed on this program.

Colin Ward, a Moscow-based poet, teacher, and somebody who has seen early death in all of its different forms, shares some of his experiences though words and poetry.

By way of introduction, Colin says that he was involved in the military in his 20s, and although was not involved with death on the battlefield, was involved with recovering dead bodies from lakes, a dead body from Northern Ireland, and in other situations. “Early death is something that happens before its time,” Colin mentions and gives as an example the early death of his own father who contracted cancer in his early forties. “He was dragged to a death that he didn’t want, and neither did we. …When my father died, we made a big effort to keep him within the family and maintain his name and remember him. We found that to be very liberating…”

Colin’s point is that bereavement and looking after those who are suffering from an early death is tremendously important but is often overlooked in our own societies. “I think that it is true that in my community we have not embraced that discussion and taken it forward.”

Colin tells the story of what happened to three young people, after they were poisoned and robbed after being offered a lift coming out of a night club in Moscow. Another member of the group, who did not drink any spiked beer they had been offered in the car, had to make the awful decision of which of her two friends to save after they were thrown out of the car in a desolate outer suburb. “When this happened, it took me back to a near death experience that happened to me when I was a young man. I used to have very nice evenings at the hotels by the sea where we were stationed in Africa. One evening I finished and dived into the swimming pool and went back to my house in Mombasa [Kenya]. The following day I went back up there, and the same thing happened. I dived into the pool but this time it had less than half a metre of water in it. Let’s say I sobered up very fast.”

Colin emphasizes the important of time, something that young people have a lot of, and reads a poem that he wrote on the subject.

As to advice of how we should handle early death, Colin stresses: “First of all, we have to engage with people, you can’t just ignore it. You have to listen, and help them. If they want to talk, listen. Give them the opportunity to talk about this person that they have loved so much.”

In the end, death reaches all of us, however Colin stresses that even though this is true, we all have a kind of obligation to be more tolerant, and be helpful towards people who have recently lost a loved one, particularly when that person dies before his or her time.

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