Winter Reflections

Michelle Furtado
4 min readJan 4, 2024

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Richard Charles Parker — a true gentleman and legend, always smiling and always loved
Richard Charles Parker — a true gentleman and legend, always smiling, always loved

Six years ago today, my beautiful, kind father died. It still feels very close to the present, those last, long weeks spent in hospital. Now, just before the New Year, we lost a brilliant colleague, far too young, to a sudden illness. Death comes this time of year, to the plants and animals, quietening the world slightly.

Last year, I was privileged to spend some time reflecting on death in our culture as part of some workshops. We hide from death, we fear it. The norms that used to be part of our society have been sanitised and cleared away from our lives. I don’t have faith and lack any deep spirituality, but my experiences of death — both my Mum and Dad in just over a year — and those others who we’ve lost along the way, have forced me to face it fully.

I remember as a child, sitting in the hallway of my grandparents house whilst my Grandad died behind the closed bedroom door. My siblings and I sat quietly as the grown ups cried in the room, shuffling in and out to make the end less painful and more comfortable, before my Dad arrived to tell us the final news. I remember seeing my Grandad’s body later in the Chapel of Rest, his face sunken, his skin cold, so far from the life that was.

My eldest daughter is now learning to confront death. Our elderly neighbours breed rabbits for the pot and she wants to save one, but not just one, although she says that. The feral cats which go to their property have litters of kittens that are dispatched too. Her tears at the realisation of this truth are hard and heartfelt as I explain to her again why we can’t take on any more pets.

Death is a great leveller. Despite all the great wealth of the elites and techno billionaires, their bodies will too, one day stop. Death for some is violent and cruel, for others gentle and soft, death is death. I’m now 46 years old, halfway-ish through my life, watching as the grey hair grows more pronounced, the menopause symptoms increase, and the smile lines deepen. My awareness of my mortality grows too. I don’t fear death — sure, I don’t want to die yet, my girl’s are too young and their needs too great — yet, by accepting an end to this ephemeral existence, I believe I can gain too.

Death means that life is precious, a time-limited resource that has been gifted to us all. It’s function of finality can mean that those who understand the end, can seek a definition beyond the cultural limits we are defined by. I need to work, to pay my many debts and bills, yet I know that life is more, much more, than the work I do.

My creativity, love, and kindness carry far more weight than any report I write, or company I help. It is death I believe, which has given me this sight. My early experiences and those as an adult have shown me this clearly. My wonderful Dad and his household accounting, double-entry bookkeeping for years, was a habit that he accepted was futile at the end. His reading of books and listening to obscure jazz was not, it filled his soul.

If we, in Western society, were more open to the conversations around death, would we open ourselves to a different life? Money and wealth, unable to be taken with us, would feel less important than time spent with friends and family. Our desire to consume and have, would concede towards a life full of experiences. Simple pleasures — walking barefoot, opening a bright, new conker, eating and drinking slowly — these are the things we could covet, these are the things that could matter.

When we think about the future, even long, long times into the future, we do not consider our own demise. So for 2024, I want to endeavour to be more creative, give more love, and be more kind. I know I’m only human and that I’m not a Zen-master, but I can try. I know that my death, only a blink of an eye away when compared to deep-time and the universe, means that I have to enjoy the now, whilst I inhabit this form for a short while.

Peace and love to you all Mx

If you like this article, please give it a clap — you can clap up to 50 times! I write irregularly, normally every couple of weeks or so, follow me to be notified when I do. I’m a artist, activist and sustainability guide, building a new life in Portugal and growing trees. See more of my sustainability work at https://futurecologic.co.uk/. To support my work as an artist, visit — https://www.patreon.com/Postcards_from_Portugal or buy me a coffee https://www.buymeacoffee.com/GClaws. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy it, and get the conversation started below if you fancy.

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Michelle Furtado

Sustainability and regenerative, systems-thinking mentor, fine artist (sculpture, painting and digital) and community activist.