There are many fears we humans suffer.
On different lists they put in first place a number of associated fears. One says our greatest fear is Failure. Another, underscoring that we are animals of a pack, says the top fear is Loneliness. Psychology Today says it’s public speaking. They blend into each other: we fear an alteration in our group status.
The interesting one shows up as Number Two on almost all the lists: Fear of Death.
“In the midst of life,” wrote the cynic Ambrose Bierce, “we are in death.” Jesus tells us no man knows the hour and the day of his death.
Where does death rate on your scale of fears?
Death Is Loss
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” —Norman Cousins
If you see death as loss, you have to ask, “loss of what?”
It is loss, of course. Loss of this human experience. What’s your priority there? Have you considered that the most important thing in life – love – doesn’t start or end in this human sphere? What if I told you that you and those you love will continue this dance, in other forms, across the face of infinity?
If you want to “cheat death”, then live fully. Live to satisfy your deepest needs. As the late Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss.” If you live fully and are satisfied, you can look in your heart and know that Love is a continuity.
“If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die.” —Maya Angelou
I served as a part-time chaplain on a Palliative Care (Hospice) ward for eight years. Some people were there for a while and then left, only to return months later. My greatest discovery was how True these patients were. In the months they were there, they were past the BS. They no longer had a reason, a façade to support, to lie about anything. Against their will in some cases, they fought for life. In other people their will to live was all the doctors could find that kept them alive.
Death Is a Part of This Experience
We all know, somewhere in our consciousness, that we are dying. Yes, right now.
For most of us this doesn’t trouble us much until we get more personally involved in the process.
I know people who won’t make a will, as if doing so was courting their demise. Other myths include buying a burial plot. Family plots are a common solution to the problem of where and how to be buried. Of course, that comes after; you’re gone, none of that matters anymore.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.” —Khalil Gibran
This is the Spiritual view. It is evidenced by the countless people who’ve had Near-Death Experiences. It inheres to any who believe in reincarnation – taught by many of the world’s great religions.
Death Is a Relief
“All my trials/soon be over…” went the old Gospel song.
If you’re beset by regrets, don’t worry, you’ll find relief.
I was healthy until I hit 55, then stuff started breaking down. (Oh, great. Another old guy crying about his aches and pains.) I’m not crying: I know these physical problems are irrelevant in the face of death. Knowing that helps me endure whatever I have to.
Death Enriches Our Experience
Some bright thinkers hold that life is precious because its end is inevitable.
Would we appreciate a rose more if it never died? That’s a glass half full question because even if the rose never died, we will – is that what makes the rose special?
“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.” —Marcus Tullius Cicero
Time, they say, is the only thing you can’t get back. You may have heard the old saw, “Live each day as if it were your last” countered with “Live each day as if it were your first.” Exactly.
Do We Grieve or Celebrate?
My preference is to celebrate the life of one who has passed. That can be inaccessible for those who grieve. They have lost a beloved part of their life. You won’t find an expert who has anything else to say but take time to grieve, in your own way. You can take it too far, of course – “My life is over because my husband died.” That’s not a place to stay. You still have life. What would the one who has passed want you to do with it?
Can I Use Death?
Impending death has inspired many of the great works of art. It’s the great art of running just ahead of your mortality; it drives the A-type personality.
A well-known architect amazed me one day when he told me the number of years, months, days, hours and minutes to his anticipated life expectancy. It was his way of making his time precious to himself.
The last word on using death as a motivator comes from a digital pioneer:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” —Steve Jobs
Death As a Joke
It’s okay to laugh at death. Gallows humor helps us deal with the inevitability of the end of life. American editor Norman Cousins (quoted above) found out he had cancer. He dealt with it by deeply involving himself in humor, from cartoons to songs.
If your death is the punchline of your life, make it a good one.
“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” ― Woody Allen