On going out through the front door of his home on Main Street, Coalisland a man spotted the Grim Reaper walking in his direction. Panic stricken he jumped on his horse and galloped off down the street sliding left towards the Stewartstown Road. The Grim Reaper was startled and told a passer-by, “I didn’t expect to see Barney here, I’m supposed to meet him in Stewartstown in 15 minutes.”
Death – there’s no avoiding it.
Always a busy man, in recent weeks the Grim Reaper has robbed us of some rock music’s cast of icons. With the exit of David Bowie, Lemmy, Glenn Frey and Dale Griffin of Mott the Hoople in recent weeks it seems like God is organising a huge festival in Heaven. Eagles legend Frey became a fitness fanatic as he got older but death had other ideas.
Compere for the gig will be Alan Rickman who also shuffled off this mortal coil in the last fortnight before he reached three score years and ten. Apparently Status Quo are very nervous. One wise guy announced on social media that Animal (62), the famous drummer with the Muppets, had also gone.
Dermy from Greencastle suggested on Twitter, “Every so often there are pockets of death. It also happened a few years ago.” He went on to ask whether Aaron Ramsey scored a goal recently as the plethora of deaths was attributed to him scoring the last time. I have no idea what he is on about either but hey! Who understands death?
Like the wheelbarrow, it is all in front of us although my daughter has very kindly given me another 20 years before I head for the departure gates. While death can sneak up to any of us like a thief in the night, in our younger invincible days it was far from our minds and there was no sight of the Grim Reaper pulling the occasional critter from my pen.
It is disconcerting however to be at an age where one remembers the heyday of celebrities who are passing on.
Match of the Day analyst Jimmy Hill died at the grand age of 88 last month. Jeepers! Jimmy was a huge part of my childhood and teenage years while Grizzly Adams, who kept us entertained on Saturday nights with his mule ‘Number Seven’ and bear friend Ben, also went off to the great yonder. There is no point in getting morose. ‘Death is not the end,’ sang Bob Dylan who is still going strong at 74.
There is a celebrity death lottery in some companies were employees donate a few pound each week and if their star goes out… well, it’s quids in! As far as I know the rules forbid betting on someone who is terminally ill or over 75. A fortune has been lost on Shane MacGowan.
Death is a great leveller and very democratic. Whether you be prince or pauper, plumber or priest death will find you, there is no hiding place. Forget about the anti-wrinkle cream peddled by marketing people as an ageing reverse gear or ‘60 being the new 40,’ the Grim Reaper will meet you too!
Roger Daltry, lead singer of The Who, must also be shifting uncomfortably in his seat. One wonders how he now feels when he sings ‘Things they do look awful cold, Yeah, I hope I die before I get old, talkin’ ‘bout my g-g-generation…’
The folly of the invincible youth when it is easy to sing such lyrics and be lavish with time.
Death can also be a great career move for many artists as their album sales go through the roof. The fear of death is also cleverly used by entrepreneurs to frighten folk into consuming more and so we have a plethora of literature stacked on bookshelves, ‘20 cities to visit before you die,’ ‘20 books to read…’ ‘20 films to see…’ ‘20 CDs to listen to…’ Kick the bucket lists.
Untimely and violent deaths are shocking and an abhorrence to God and nature. However the passing of a elderly person who has led a full and fruitful life is no reason to cry. When Nelson Mandela died the news told of his people praying for him to stay while doctors ‘fought’ to save his life on the eve of his 90th birthday. For goodness sake let him slip away in peace. Celebrate his long life and wonderful contribution.
David Bowie’s life and death was a thing of beauty. Sure he had his struggles and demons but he lived life to the full, used his incredible talents and wasn’t afraid to embrace ch-ch-ch-changes. In death too he left an incredible video ‘Lazarus’, a parting gift for fans in a carefully planned finale. It features Bowie in a hospital bed with bandages across his face and finishes with him retreating in to a dark closet. Way to go!
“Every man dies, not every man really lives!” roared William Wallace to his army in Braveheart. Live! That’s the one! This is not a rehearsal.
The Grim Reaper will take you when he decides.