Big Al – Background

My husband plays a huge part in my climate activism, both with regard to the forty years we shared and with regard to the nature and timing of his death. I learnt a great deal from him, he was a quiet man and a good listener. Unlike me he would think carefully before giving his opinions, and that taught me the value of careful deliberation, and persuaded me to try and curb my inclination to be hasty. He improved my grasp of common sense, and I learned much from watching his DIY skills. He was the Adam Bede to my Dinah, although our story played out more like ‘Taming of the Shrew’. His courage when he faced his own death gave me the strength and courage to make the most of our remaining time together. This was a powerful character building experience for me, and prepared me to cope with the transition to being on my own. It also laid the foundations for the emotional resilience that I would need when the day came for me to realise that our planet is in crisis.

My wordsmith skills began to develop during Al’s final months in hospital. We had a close group of friends, six other couples that we had known almost throughout our marriage. Friendships that commenced up the pub after a beginners ballroom dancing class. Al was a proud man, and we discussed whether he would like our friends to visit in hospital. He was in a very poor way by then, and he said no. I took to emailing these friends an update after every hospital visit. These shared exchanges, with humour infused into the darkest days, gave an insight into how we interacted as couple, and added a powerful poignancy to the reports. Their replies sustained me and created a dialogue, as I relayed their memories of past shared antics to Al in his hospital bed.

I had tried creative writing in the past, but lacked the imagination to create a story. Losing Al was easy to accept, by the time that he died it was a merciful release for both he and I. If the UK NHS had offered some ‘Help to Die’, we both would have welcomed it, and we both could have been spared some considerable anguish at the end.

Mortal death is the first fact of life, the only thing we can be sure of in life is that one day we shall be dead. It helps to accept that and to overcome any fear of death early on, especially with the way our future is shaping up at the moment. Continuing with our ‘Growth’ paradigm the time will soon come when the living will envy the dead.

Losing the planet through the collective folly of mankind is on an entirely different level of significance to the loss of any mortal. We have our priorities vastly wrong with our health-service and our social-services. These have an enormous ecological cost which we are squandering to save lives in the present, whilst leaving us all vulnerable in the near future.

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