WILKO ON DEATH AND DYING

More than a year ago a succession of experiences triggered the question from which The New Immortals project was born.  The first thing that set me thinking was an interview I heard on the radio with musician Wilko Johnson who had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer and was embarking on a grand farewell tour. Impending death apparently intensified his experience of life; Wilko said, “I’ve never felt more alive, it’s one of the most intense years I’ve had. The things that used to matter … don’t matter to me any more. I’m embracing the present.”

Wilko Johnson
Image: Wilko Johnson by Dena Flows. Licensed under Creative Commons. http://www.denaflows.com

Wilko has given a number of quite inspirational interviews in which he has talked at length about how the knowledge of impending death has changed his attitude to life. In an interview with Rick Fulton he said, “Dying doesn’t half make you feel alive. You walk down the street and you are looking at everything with new eyes. It’s not just a mundane world you are used to – you are thinking how marvellous it is to be alive. I’ve reached levels of serenity and happiness that I’ve never known in my life. You think, ‘Why didn’t I think of this 20 years ago?’”.

This then put a question in my mind: what difference would it make if we never died?

But now Wilko has been cured! An 11 hour operation earlier this year to remove a 3kg tumour, along with part of Wilko’s stomach, pancreas and spleen has resulted in Wilko being declared free of cancer. It’s a miracle. So, I wonder, what difference does this make to Wilko’s life now?