Vale means a written or verbal farewell, that is why the term shows up on social media platforms when someone has just died.
I have had a very busy start to February, and like many of us with over-committed lives (I am still a casual-contract social science academic and taught a Summer semester intensive; the marking turnarounds are brutal!) I began to write a post and needed to turn my attention elsewhere when I had begun a post in tribute to the late author Ursula K Le Guin.
It was a surprise (and chagrin-making…) to come back the blog here after far too long – more than two weeks have passed – and see that I had left my intended memorial post too late. For which I apologise unreservedly to Ms. Le Guin, who deserves all fulsome and timely tributes. The Dispossessed changed my life when I was in my mid-teens, and her work has informed a great deal of my thinking and life ever since. The Earthsea Trilogy are also wonderful and influential books, and either of these are good starting places if you are new to Le Guin’s work*. And the tardiness of my written response – my literal “Vale” – serves as a good reminder to me that my life need not be so stupendously busy, ever, that I do not take a moment or two to let people know I love and care about them, or that when an author dies I cannot make time to make full notes/write about what made they way they touched my life so vital.
Books, the written works and words, the mindset and perspective that a book/author brings to my life is essential to the way I position myself in the world – take a look at the ever-increasing number of death-, dying- and End Of Life-related book reviews here on the site. However, I also read for pleasure, and also for research – books and authors form part of my personal intellectual oxygen mix, I need them to keep living as the individual I am.
I am reminded this month, with a gap in my blog posts and a hectic schedule, to pay attention to the people who touch my life. I am going to exert time and effort for the rest of February to tell the people who matter to me that they are important. I will tell the people I love that I love them, the people I respect that I respect them. I invite you, Gentle Reader, to do the same.
Our time is finite, and we do not know if we have until next week, next month, “next time” or any sort of “later” – because time waits for none of us, no matter how busy we tell ourselves we are with all our things to do. And do not forget to walk into your bathroom, look yourself in the eye and tell yourself that you love you, too. Make time for the people you love this month, and also for the things you love… because, why not?
And hey, if you need to make time to do some advance planning for your End Of Life as a gesture to the people in your life that you love and value, I am happy to help you explore your options. Communicate your love to your important people, then get in touch with me for an appointment.
*But please, please do buy them from your local independent bookseller – Amazon does not pay taxes in Australia. Keep local businesses going.
There is a well-written newspaper article here from the Bendigo Advertiser which investigates and clarifies what happens when you die. It is an interesting read.
If you have questions about advance planning for your own End Of Life I am happy to help you understand and navigate your options.
Death on Earth – Adventures in Evolution and Mortality provides an eclectic mix of personal observation and questioning, scientific information, and observations from death professionals in conversation with the author. At times I found that the wonderings of the author overlapped the focus of the writing in ways that clouded the chapter focus – however, perhaps this is simply part of humans grappling with the unknowns at the End Of Life. I read Jules Howard’s book whilst travelling, which I like because I can read without distractions. Don’t be fooled by the size of the book, although it looks an innocuous paperback there is a lot of information inside, along with a variety of perspectives on death, mortality, sex, and life.
Yup, sex. Because one of the aspects of life that is frequently obscured in discussions of death/dying/mortality is the fact that without sex there is no life, and the two are inevitably intertwined. As a sex-positive End Of Life Doula I was quite delighted to see that the importance of sex to reproduction and thence to death, the life cycle of life on earth, and the impact sex has at all levels of life was not glossed over in this book.
There is a lot of attention paid to the scientific and the factual, which I particularly enjoy, so if you are looking for a fluffy, comforting read this may not be your first port of call. As an End Of Life professional and social scientist, however, I found the book thought-provoking, occasionally quite funny, and sometimes frustrating; arguably all of these are the hallmarks of a good book. The parts I struggled with relate to discussions attempting to equate the responses of other animals to those of human animals, and is a personal bugbear of my own… many other readers may not even notice.
For those of us curious about the arc of life and what constitutes death and happens to physical remains after death (along with some interesting information about ritual and cultural narratives around death for humans) this is a good addition to your bookshelf.