Some of the last words


An excerpt from Anjee Gitte Carlsen’s recently published book, ‘To Live and to Die’.

Renovated dining room

Now it is clear to both of us: if there is more that we need to talk about, or set in order, then now is the time. We begin with the money. Through many years of hard work and a frugal way of life, Gunnar has managed to save quite a bit of money. It was not until he sold his shares that he realised what he owned. He is happy and proud he can ensure that I will remain in the house after his death. I am, too, and often think how many couples must deal with financial problems during a cancer process, on top of everything else. Misfortunes never come singly.

Gunnar wants to donate an amount to some of his closest friends, who he knows have very little money. Together we decide that this need not wait until after his death. He can give them the money now, so he may have the pleasure of giving himself. I go to the bank straight away and we make four envelopes, each with 10,000 kroner, which Gunnar gives them that same day. It is lovely to see his joy in being able to give and their surprise and joy in receiving.

Then there is the dining room at the meditation centre. For many years Gunnar has wished for it to be extended and given panoramic windows to the west, as this would bring light into the small dark dining room. This suggestion has always been postponed due to shortage of funds. Now Gunnar decides that he wants to donate the money needed for the extension, so the proposal cannot be vetoed for financial reasons.

I detect a certain triumph in finally getting his idea accepted, as well as his wish to be able to give and create something that will give joy to others, even though he will not be there himself to enjoy the view.

Sune, director of the meditation centre, comes straight away, and together they make the drawings for how the extension is going to be built, down to the tiniest detail: small triangular corners, building materials, the size of windows, etc. It takes one hour. The plan is ready and Gunnar is completely exhausted. Talk about a last effort.

It seems as if the fog in Gunnar’s brain lifts sometimes and the clarity, which is behind it all, shines through for a short while, only to close again. I ask him how it feels inside his head and he says that he does not have a lot of thoughts any more. “There are not so many inputs,” he explains. He begins to withdraw into himself. “Perhaps the end will not be all that nurturing,” he adds. I think he means nurturing for me.

We also talk about what is going to happen afterwards. Gunnar wants to be cremated and have his ashes scattered at sea. He says that it will be up to me to decide where I want to scatter them. It does not have to be in Goa, he tells me.

Thank heaven for that, at least! We know someone who once travelled to Goa with her husband’s ashes as smuggled luggage. That would never go undetected in this day and age of heightened security checks.

It is nice when we have finished these talks and everyday life can go on.

Excerpt from Anjee Gitte Carlsen’s recently published book

Review by Kaiyum: ‘To Live and to Die’

Related excerpt: 50th Birthday

Available from – and Visdoms Bøgerne.

Comments are closed.