Monday, May 11, 2009

Of Work and Funerals

I had a really productive week at TCH with about seven thousand words added to the WIP plus getting the structure sorted so it works better and some general tidying up. I'm well pleased with that but would be happier if I hadn't been laid low with a bug all weekend which I'm still struggling with today. Still with only four hours available today I managed to get down around 700 words, update the character list and fix the map. This has been bugging me for months and given my characters wander over a vast area having a map to work from is critical. So not so many words but much else of use and relevance.

The reason for there only being four hours at the writers centre was there was also a funeral to go to today. The father of one of my oldest friends has passed away. I feel rather surrounded with death and dying at the moment with friends and family suffering serious or terminal illness. It has made me think about a lot of things and involved considerable reassessment of my life. It has also made me think about how we as a society live our lives.

Within living memory it was common for babies to be born at home attended by a midwife or a general practitioner if there was reason to assume that there might be a problem with the birth (or when a father-to-be panicked). Obstetricians were only available to those with considerable money. The better off women might go to a lying in hospital usually run by a midwife with a doctor on call but the majority of babies came into the world in their mother's bed in their future house. Later, when they grew old and infirm, they would be taken care of in the family home to eventually die in their own bed surrounded by their families.

Contrast this with the way we live today. We are born in hospital - the new family birthing suites may be pleasant but it's not home - and babies are routinely induced for reasons of convenience (for medical staff or the parents) and when we die it's most often in a hospital, not our own bed in our own home.

It seems to me that somehow we have lost the continuity and rhythm of life that we used to have. We hand over responsibility to others or in some cases have it taken away from us. As a result the natural processes of birth and death become shrouded in some degree of mystery and we lack confidence in our ability to deal with these events. Many people never see a dead person in their life time. Surely this is wrong. Death comes inevitably to us all and we should not pretend it doesn't.

I'm not suggesting that we go back to "the good old days" necessarily. I've lived long enough to know that for all the good parts of those days there were many not so good and the same will apply to those looking back on this time. What I guess I would like to see is an acceptance that birth and death are parts of life, where we acknowledge that there is a time for life to come to its end and that there is less interference in that natural process.

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