Making some sort of sense of it all

Charles Cowling

Your life experience is unique to you. What you’ve done in your life, what’s happened to you and the sense you’ve made of it all amount to a precious and extraordinary story. Even if you don’t feel the need to write a whole book about it, you almost certainly have a strong desire to pass on to others something of what you have learned and come to understand about the world you live in.

You could tell your story in words, written or spoken. Or you could use paint. Or photography or video. You can communicate your life story in all sorts of ways, but it can be a difficult thing to give shape and meaning to experiences which blend events with emotions. You know you’ve got it in you – you can feel it there. But how do you get it out?

I was musing on all this as I tidied up my chapter on planning your own death and funeral, which my brilliant man at Carronmedia will be posting any day. Having said which, let’s take some time out for a plug. As a copywriter I’ve worked with some massively self-overrated technotossers through the years. There’s one around every corner. Harry at Carronmedia is different. He listens, he intuits, he keeps it simple, he doesn’t show off. He’s different and he’s rare. He’s the best and I love him.

Where were we? Oh, yes, life stories. There’s a charity, Rosetta Life, which funds artists to work with the dying and help them to express, in all media, what it is that they want to say. It’s worth your while spending some time at their website, looking at the work in their gallery and also in their online exhibition, which you can get to from the Rosetta Life tab. Here you can see work by people who, before they go, want to try to make some sort of sense of their life experience and communicate it.

It’s the sort of thing anyone making preparations for their death might want to do. If that’s you, there’s inspiration here. It will also give you an insight into what dying feels like and what still seems important when night is falling fast.

Especially inspiring, I think, is the work that Billy Bragg, funded by Rosetta, did with his ‘Friday girls’ at the Trimar Hospice in Weymouth, Dorset. Read about it here.


One of these ‘Friday girls’ was Maxine Edgington (above). This is what she said on the Jeremy Vine Show about how she felt when she was told her cancer was terminal:

I just realised that dying was not actually about me, it was about those around me; it was about their feelings, it was about their comfort, it was about their coping, their knowing that I loved them, and it was leaving nothing unsaid.

That’s what her lyric, dedicated to her daughter Jessica (below with her Mum), is all about. Here are the words:

We Laughed

Remember swimming with the dolphin off Portland Bill
You when Buster was a puppy – I can see it still
We laughed, we laughed

We went girl racing in my brand new car
Watched soppy girly movies at the cinema
We laughed, we laughed
And we laughed
Though the hardest part of living
Is giving up what has been given
And you know no-one could love you more
Whatever the future has in store
I want you to remember that we laughed

When I dance to modern music you split your sides
Your ballet dancing medal filled me with pride
We laughed, we laughed
We were happier together than with our friends
We never believed that these days would end
We laughed, we laughed
We laughed
Though the hardest part of living
Is giving up what has been given
We laughed
And you know no-one could love you more
Whatever the future has in store
I want you to remember that we laughed

You always want to borrow my shoes
You nicked my make-up – it looked so good on you
We laughed, we laughed
And when I see how beautiful you are
I’m thrilled you turned out such a star
We laughed, we laughed
And we laughed
Though the hardest part of living
Is giving up what has been given
And you know no-one could love you more
Whatever the future has in store
I want you to remember that we laughed

Some things don’t turn out as planned
I give you to our father’s hand
I want you to remember that we laughed

And here’s the song

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