‘You’ve got liver disease,’ my heart consultant said recently. ‘But you won’t die of it.’
This is a surprisingly comforting thought. Not least because you can add to it all the other things you won’t now die of:
- Trying to land a spacecraft on Mars
- Swimming the English Channel
- The guillotine
- Flying a light aircraft under a bridge
- Being eaten alive by piranhas
- Trying to break the world record for jumping a motorcycle over 42 double decker buses.
Really, it’s liberating. When you are a teenager, and happily raised in a land when you have some opportunity to express yourself, the possibilities are enormous. You can’t totally rule out, for example, being trampled by a herd of zebras or finding the end of hostile bayonet, or disappearing in a caving accident, or finding your attempt to cross the ocean on a giant rubber duck going horribly wrong.
It’s true that when young, if you’re lucky, all sorts of possible lives seem to present themselves, but they are accompanied by even more sorts of possible deaths.
Instead, as you ripen, with any luck or grace, you may be happy enough to find youself settling — into a life with people you love, things you love, work you love and times you love. Leaving those will be hard, and you will not want to let them go, even though some banal and workaday illness will finally prise your fingers away. But at least you found them and had them for a season, and thus perhaps, as I believe, sampled eternity.