I don't know why I'm espousing the virtues of a day planner to you guys, I'm sure you all have one and have had one since time immemorial.
It's a 17 month planner, which I really like, as it carries me through from this week until December next year and removes some of the panic involved in a new planner to go with a new year. There's something about a virgin planner in the new year that scares the crap outta me, but this seems less frightening. It also allows me to put in all the details for my trip to New Zealand, and that feels really good, really positive. I can do with a bit of that.
To get to my point, though, at the back of the planner lie six pages for 'contacts'. And it got me reflecting on something that arrests me from time to time, which is that I don't really have many friends. I'm not being self pitying when I say that, it doesn't bother me. The friends I have are amazing and I can count on each and every one of them solidly and dependably, as I hope they can on me.
But it was a very simple matter to distill my proper address book into a much smaller list of people who would need to be contacted should anything happen to me. Which is how I treated the small contacts section, as an emergency contacts list. So my contacts section is my boss, my mentor and ten other listings, some of which are couples, some singles. I told my sister, my first emergency contact person, that all the numbers she would need could be found at the back of my planner. (I haven't given her my password to my phone and I don't intend to; the same goes for my facebook account.)
So there they are, in black felt tip pen, the most important people in my life. It's strange how something so important boils down to something so neat and simple. Many things in this category of tasks often do, these end of life decisions. They're complex to decide, oftentimes, but usually the writing out and storage of information becomes quite simple. I recently set about writing a will, not that I have much other than a fairly impressive book and DVD collection and some superannuation that's finally banked in one place, but it's done and stored somewhere safe that, again, my sister knows about. These little things, all done with the knowledge that one day I will cease to breathe and my heart will cease to beat and that there will be people left behind.
You can't have the illness I do and not dwell on death too much. Knowing I've taken steps to have my wishes carried out if and when I do die gives me a sense of security that's not quite like anything else. Young people don't write wills, but I think we should - it gives us some ownership over an event that, with few exceptions, is completely out of our control. It makes us reflect on something that visits us all, eventually. And it forces us to confront our fears and beliefs about what comes next, or what doesn't.
Death matters because it makes life important. All we have are our memories and relationships to rely on when it comes a knocking, and I know I am nothing without those names in the back of my planner.
Speaking of my planner again, look how pretty it is!!