Thoughts ahead of the day of the dead III

“People in Kwahu-Tafo, a rural town in Southern Ghana, regard a peaceful death as a ‘good death’. ‘Peaceful’ refers to the dying person having finished all business and made peace with others before his/her death and implies being at peace with his/her own death. It further refers to the manner of dying: not by violence, an accident or a fearsome disease, not by foul means and without much pain. A good and peaceful death comes ‘naturally’ after a long and well-spent life. Such a death preferably takes place at home, which is the epitome of peacefulness, surrounded by children and grandchildren. Finally, a good death is a death which is accepted by the relatives.”

Dying peacefully: considering good death and bad death in Kwahu-Tafo, Ghana. van der Geest S.

Apart from the fact of the disease, which took him young, I think my Dad had all of this. And more, he had painting, even when the cancer took away his singing voice. I would add to this – die doing something you love. Keep painting, writing, singing, inventing. You’ll never think “that’s it, I’ve done it”, because there’s always more to do. But to die trying!

At Eighty

Push the boat out, compañeros,
push the boat out, whatever the sea.
Who says we cannot guide ourselves
through the boiling reefs, black as they are,
the enemy of us all makes sure of it!
Mariners, keep good watch always
for that last passage of blue water
we have heard of and long to reach
(no matter if we cannot, no matter!)
in our eighty-year-old timbers
leaky and patched as they are but sweet,
well seasoned with the scent of woods
long perished, serviceable still
in unarrested pungency
of salt and blistering sunlight. Out,
push it all out into the unknown!
Unknown is best, it beckons best,
like distant ships in mist, or bells
clanging ruthless from stormy buoys.

Edwin Morgan

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About Pedalling Poetry

Writer Ellen McAteer is founder of Tell It Slant poetry bookshop in Glasgow, and a visiting lecturer at the Glasgow School of Art. She was a mentee of the Clydebuilt Verse Apprenticeship Scheme, under Alexander Hutchison, and a singer with the band Stone Tape, as well as a solo singer who won a BBC Radio competition with her song Blue Valentine. She was Director of the Poetry Trust, which ran the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, a director of the Scottish Writers’ Centre, a visiting lecturer at Oxford University's MSt in creative writing, and a member of the core group of performers at the Hammer and Tongue spoken word collective in Oxford. She is a qualified Librarian.
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