Saturday, 11 May 2013

On Death...

This week Ray Harryhausen, the stop motion animation wizard whose work was a feature of so many fantasy and sword and sandals films of the 1960s and 70s, passed away. I don't remember which of the films he worked on I saw first, probably Clash of the Titans as that was always on telly when I was a kid and I remember it fondly.

I don't want to say too much about Mr Harryhausen or his life, the people who knew him can do that, and my information would probably end up coming from Wikipedia (bad of me I know).  Rather, I want to say a little about  the reaction that surrounded his death on sites like Facebook.

Most, in fact all, of the reactions I saw related to his passing reminded me uncomfortably of the response to Ray Bradbury's death last year. People seemed not only upset that he'd died but also seemed to think that it was a terrible thing, which given that Mr Harryhausen was 93 seems a little odd to me, and frankly, a little selfish.

By any account 93 (or 91 in Bradbury's case) is not a  bad age to reach. Few people reach it and most that do often have serious health conditions, their quality of life is likely to go down not up and their best years are behind them. Certainly Ray Bradbury died after a lengthy illness, so surely our reaction should be to thank him for his stories and be glad his pain is over? Not to come across, on something as superfluous as Facebook at least, as if his death is a slap in the face.

It reminded me a little of the way the Blair government rushed to vaccinate pensioners against avian flu, only to be sternly rebuffed by the very people they were striving to help. The point was made that they had lived long, usually happy, lives, and that if anybody needed to be inoculated it was parents. It strikes an interesting chord between a world that is terrified of the aging process but at the same time, utterly dependent on the old for caring for children and picking up the slack if younger generations fail.

Perhaps my view of these things is a little out of step with everyone else's. I don't see death as a terrible thing, not because of any faith, but because I tend to see it a release. My maternal grandparents both got nasty diseases towards the ends of their lives, the kind we can't cure yet, and died by inches. It was a relief when they passed over, both changed beyond recognition from the pillars of my childhood, to the extent that my Granny reminded me more of a bundle of sticks than a human being.

Nonetheless, I'll raise a glass in salute and wish the departed well. May they rest easy, knowing their legacies are secure and they will live on in hearts, minds and memories. But let them rest, they've earned it.