Georgia, my adopted country, has a rich religious heritage. Georgia was the second country to adopt Christianity as the official religion, after Armenia. Religion is important for the majority of the population, despite Stalin and the communists attempts to eradicate religious practices in the Soviet years.
Peaches Geldof and Mickey Rooney
Peaches Geldof died, yesterday (7 April) aged just 25. I first learnt of this as with many celebrity deaths through a Facebook status comment, Andrew McFall wrote : “Shocked by the death of Peaches Geldof…”, I immediately went to the BBC news site to find out more. Mickey Rooney also died this week aged 93. I didn’t know either celebrity personally, I only remember seeing one of Mickey Rooney’s films “Night at the Museum”, all I remember of Peaches Geldof was a clip on Facebook where she was arguing with Katie Hopkins about motherhood. Katie Hopkins, like Piers Morgan seems to be one of those people who thrive on others disliking them, I did see Peaches’ father Bob Geldof live on stage in 1990 and I also read his book. RIP Peaches. RIP Mickey.
These deaths got me thinking about death and my own mortality. I am approaching 50, a time for reflection; the Hindus suggest going on a pilgrimage when you are fifty, by that time you should have sorted out your material needs and should turn your attention to your soul. I have said I’d be interested in walking one of the pilgrim routes to Santiago del Compostela this summer, possibly starting in Porto. I read about this pilgrimage in Paulo Coelho’s first book “The Pilgrimage.”
Facebook Friends dying
What do you do when a Facebook friend who you vaguely know dies suddenly? Mark J Smith from Yorkshire was one such friend, I never met him in real life but we interacted here on Facebook. He was 52, a similar age to me and passed away suddenly last month. His brother posted some information on his page. Mark isn’t the first I have maybe a dozen dead Facebook friends, now. Some I knew in real life and some I just knew through their online presence.
Before I came to Georgia, I had never seen a dead human body. Here it is the tradition when someone dies, to place the body on a table. Women sit alongside the body quietly or wailing and the men make a circuit of the body before exiting. I have been to three funerals here, the dead people, I didn’t know in life but I knew many of their relatives. When I die, I would like my body to be cremated, but that is not a common practice here in Georgia.
My Own Mortality
One thing I know for sure is that I will die someday. I don’t know when. I don’t smoke, I am not overweight and I drink very little alcohol. My father died at 78, the average age for UK males. Maybe I will live until 78, maybe not. In the night I woke and my heart was racing unaccountably. Could this be a portent for a heart attack? Bill Clinton had a relatively healthy lifestyle, apart from the stress of being President, but he still needed heart surgery. My first wife didn’t make it to 50, she died at the age of 46, possibly from cancer (I wasn’t in contact with her from 2000 when we divorced until 2011 when I was informed she had died).
A lot of famous people died young, Peaches Geldof being the latest, now I usually find out about these on Facebook. I was too young to appreciate the deaths of Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix in the early seventies (all three aged 27 and all deaths were drug related). I didn’t realise how famous Elvis was until he died in 1977. John Lennon’s death was a slight shock in 1980, I was oblivious to Ian Curtis death in 1980, at the time, my musical tastes had yet to evolve to Joy Division. Kurt Cobain dying in 1994 was not really a shock, he had attempted suicide a few months previously, a music columnist Barbara Ellen, I think, had been rather sneering of the failed attempt, as though it were merely a publicity stunt. Princess Diana’s death momentarily stunned the nation in 1997, there was a massive outpouring of grief and then people seemed somewhat embarrassed by it all, as though it weren’t “British” to show such emotion. In the Facebook era there have been several notable deaths like Michael Jackson, Mel Smith and Trigger from Only Fools and Horses. Carl Hiaasen wrote an amusing book “Basket Case” about a 46 year old Florida obituary writer. The writer focused on death continually thought along the lines of “I’m now the same age as JFK was when he croaked..”
I believe that death isn’t the end of us. I am a Christian, I don’t have a clear idea of what happens to our soul after death but I believe there will be a good place (heaven, if you will) and a bad place (hell). I’m not sure the nature of either, and I don’t think the good place will be exclusive to one particular religion. I taught in a mosque in England for a few months and met many devout and peaceful Muslims. Good people and bad people can be found of all faiths and none. I think if we get to Heaven we will be surprised at who else is there. Some people I have seen on Facebook claiming to want to go to Hell because that is where all the interesting people will be…I don’t think that will be the case. Your final destination may be down to your own personal attitude, like an LSD trip, it would depend how you feel before as to whether you have a good trip or a bad trip and maybe those who are ardent atheists may just go out like a light into non-existence.