Maybe it's the looming threat of grannydom, or maybe something else. But of late I've been musing on the ones who've walked this way, but we see no more.
I remember the Rt Hon Grandad and Granny Fitzroy Russell (they were always very formal, insisting on being addressed by their full titles). Old Grandad out in the fields when I get was just a little girl, announcing that he would go to smoky place if he was going to let the peasantry get away with working a three-day week, whatever that grinning Grocer said. The flogging of digging-folk went on until April, that cold winter. He said it kept them warm when they were hedging and ditching.
Of course, it was a great shock to the whole estate when they both died in that terrible hay-baling accident. Only my father was there. And he never liked to speak about it.
And then of course my own parents were, when they inherited, much kinder to the workforce. My mother ensured everyone earned a living wage. No wonder, when they died in that terrible hay-baling accident, the estate was losing money hand over fist and I had to lay everybody off and create the Beaker Folk. Yeah, I was the only one with them when the accident happened. I don't like to talk about it. All I remember is the look on my father's face as he said, "Not that lever! I told you - not that lever!"
And I think about the inscription I saw on a grave somewhere - "The people we love never die - they live within our hearts." I know it's unromantic of me, but that's not really eternal life, is it? That's just an extension - even if it had some kind of objective truth. And what a burden on the living, if eternal life were dependent on the memories of one's successors and descendants. I mean, it's hard enough remembering back to my grandparents and the things they told me about their own parents' times. If the survival of their ancestors depended on their position in my heart - if my heart were not of the flint-like consistency it is - then what a weight I would carry from the past. I'm not sure I'd be able to survive, thinking about all those hay-baler accidents.
And so, given that even Ozymandias is known only by his stone feet, and the Kings of Gondor are as but a memory, I think that if we are to look for eternal life we must look somewhere else. It may be less easily achievable, or indeed believable, but our hope cannot live in the hearts of those we leave behind. We must look for one who has conquered death, and hope somehow to catch onto the straps of his sandals. Obviously, just dying has its attractions. I just can't believe in it.
Ah me. When all's said and done, I cling to the words of a wise man - "I'd rather be immortal by not dying." Which we fallible humans can only try to achieve with a reasonable success rate in the medium term. I think I'll avoid teaching Young Keith and Charlii how to use the baling machine, come this hay-making.