Trevor Hayley


Funeral and Life Memorial Celebrant

A Caring Presence for you and your family so you can Celebrate a Life

Servicing Greater Adelaide, Fleurieu, South Coast and Adelaide Hills Regions of South Australia



One gulp at a time……….

Because of death we appreciate life #15

Thank goodness there are some things we can take for granted.

Being able to see and focus, one leg moving after another, having clear hearing, our heart beating one beat after another, our lungs going in and out, words coming out; even what happens to the food our body does not need. 

You know that bit? (the less we say about that the better).

Then there is swallowing. Do you know the only thing that stops food going into out lungs, is a little flap called epiglottis, which when we swallow, ensures food graciously and seamlessly goes down to our stomach, as opposed to our lungs?

Quite amazing really.

It would be quite disastrous if food or liquid went into out lungs, and would probably cause death, and given the amount of times we swallow in a day, quite a critical little thing in the scheme of things.

Before I go on, I am acutely aware that what can be taken for granted will differ from one person to another. For some there is no sight, some cannot walk,  some cannot hear, some cannot speak, but most alive would have a heart beating and lungs going in and out. 

So although there are differing abilities, it would be a common human experience there are some bodily functions we can take for granted, although we may need help with some of them.

But back to the swallowing thing. It was a quote from comedian, George Carlin, that got me thinking.

“Death is caused by swallowing small amounts of saliva over a long period of time.”

I think the takeaway from this quote is the ‘long period of time,’ bit. If all is well with our bodily functions, the bits we are not aware we are even doing, like blinking for example, will just continue, and most of the time, will not even have a fleeting thought. 

So what does that have anything to do with our day to day?

Well if there are aspects of our life we can take for granted, say for instance even a learned skill such as driving, it would appear perhaps the growing experience of life leads to a growing list of things we can take for granted, and when we take things for granted, it then frees our mind up, gives us space to explore new avenues, new opportunities and for life to go into new experiences. We just seem to know the things which function without much thought.

I have heard that Billy Connolly, the Scottish Comedian, does not really plan what he says, he just goes on stage and he talks. It is a skill he can take for granted, and in those moments brings joy to the world. With this freedom, he has the opportunity to explore, even further, him comedic gift, but it comes from a place of ‘I really can.’

And yes he does swallow his saliva.

Of course there are things we should never take for granted; the love of families and our partners. We always needs to express our love for them.

There will come a time, hopefully in the distant future, when the things we take for granted will no longer work, until it gets to the point where our hearts stop beating. But in the meantime, what a wonderful gift we have; the knowledge our hearts will keep beating, one beat after the other, steady and strong, which frees us up to live the life we have been given, and maybe even bring a positive difference to our small part of the world.

Yes George, death does occur by swallowing saliva one gulp at a time, but it is also something we can take for granted as we live our lives. Thanks for your comedic genius. I love this clip from him, called ‘stuff.’

The commentary in this blog is intended to be general in nature. It is just some observations from one fellow traveller in life to another. If anything in this blog raises issues for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or consult with a trusted medical professional. 

Photo by Nicholas Green on Unsplash


Trevor Hayley
Servicing Greater Adelaide and Regional South Australia

Phone: 0409 107 372


ABN 73 737 609 724

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