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Pieter Houghton

| His Story | Comments on Death |

"See death is a process. It is in three stages. And I realized that I had finally reached the last stage when I began to develop additional symptoms. This is a fairly sure sign that you are within a couple of months of dying."

"So, when I began to get sores all over my hands and necrotic sores, and got gout, I realized that death was near. And I knew that I had got very little time because I would begin to lapse into a sort of bed-ridden state before too long. I could only walk now about twenty yards without breathlessness."

"So, the first thing you have to say is: "The time has come." I visited my life a few weeks ago and I'm happy I did everything I could to make things right and to say thank you and say good bye to those you love. And I went through some of that process again. But then, when you've gone through that process, you are faced with the fact that all that is left is the physical process. And to me, the way of coping with that was to reach inside myself for the presence of God. And to ask God to be with me. Or the Holy Spirit. And in reaching in, that I personally found enough strength to endure."

"See, I live with the knowledge that my life had come to an end. And in that process, I had followed my own advice and prepared for the end. Taken the last rights, said good byes, and tried to put right little wrongs that I felt I had done. And so I was ready for death. I prepared myself as I taught others to do…to die. And then the miraculous opportunity came to join a clinical experiment. No one knew what would happen. So it was a risk. And I survived. And I managed to survive a year. But it isn't the same as ordinary life. There are three reasons. The first is you live with a battery attached to yourself and you have to remember that all the time. Secondly, you're not quite as well as you were. You live dependent upon the world. So you are not as independent as say, you are. You have to accept a level of dependence on others, and upon the community's good will. And because of that - and because this is an act of grace - I mean, what's a modern miracle but highly skilled people doing their job within the grace of God? What…isn't that a modern miracle? And you live with the knowledge that you have benefited from this. And that you're not quite independent. So the anxiety is I must live my current life in some kind of service to others. I must do my best. I mustn't be a passive receiver of life and return nothing. So extra life has got this sort of existential angst about it. You want to make a return from a position of weakness. And it can be quite distressing."

"I don't know when I'm going to die. It all depends on this pump inside. If it stops, I will go into a cardiac myopathy again and die, you know, in a shortish time. So I have to live with the presence of that possibility. I have to live every day - and I try to live every day as a gift. And it's not easy to do. Because I have been the sort of person who has thought about the future and to try and make the present beautiful is less easy for me because I was always planning on a beautiful future. So that's an experience that I'm having which is been quite complex."

"The psychologist Jung once said that, as he got older, he became much more aware with his kinship with all creation. And that after this experience, I've become very much aware that we're all part of this marvelous thing called the Creation. And it doesn't matter to me whether it's evolved or what. It's a wonderful presence in the glory within. There's an old saying that there are five things we should try and do. We should remember as the Buddhists say: "Everything is sorrow. Everything comes to an end." We should remember as the Christians say: "And everything is renewed but not the same." And we should remember as the Taoists in China say: "Right actions lead to right results and wrong actions lead to wrong results." And we should learn that every friendship and every relationship has to be mutual. We can't impose ourselves on others or let others impose themselves on us without consent. And finally - and this is the thing that matters to me - there's glory at the heart of everything. There is the act of creation that began the universe that echoes, I think, personally within the soul. And that's the great journey that I found "extra life" is helping me make. The discovery of the echo of the creation."

"Thomas More was sitting in the Tower of London waiting to have his head chopped off because he disagreed with Henry VIII and he spent a lot of his last hours writing. And one of the things he wrote was: "Death wonderfully focuses the mind." And it does. It focuses you down if you have the luxury to do it. It focuses you down on really profound things. What has life been about? What is the meaning of everything? What's the point of the universe? Why are we here? And all the time we live our lives we ignore these questions. There's no point in really asking them because how are we going to get them answered? But when you face death, you do ask these questions and I think people have different answers. For me, you have to live in pursuit of an answer. To feel good about it, to feel right about it, you have to sort of study God or study the universe and find out that it's a wonderful thing. I mean, life is a miracle, isn't it? And we have to find out what this wonderful miracle is for. And there are various religious views on what it's for. But it's only for what you believe inside yourself. And we have to look for that connection. The thing that has always sustained me and sustains me more in this "extra life", is the sense that I am connected - connected with the creation and that's my answer. I am connected with Creation in some way."

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