My Friend Death

The contemplation of one’s own mortality frightens many people.  To be more specific, people are fearful that their death will be painful, prolonged and difficult.  I don’t like pain either.  I mean physical pain, like from disease or injury.  Psychological pain, emotional pain and painful crises of the spirit are things no one can avoid, and I think those may even promote growth as part of our process of maturation.  But people can and do hope to be spared from unnecessary physical pain.  That’s why people pray for a quick death, even if they can’t bear to say such a thing out loud.

We judge the rightness or wrongness of a death depending on who has died, and in what circumstances.  If a person has lived whatever we consider to be a sufficient number of years, we don’t tend to be as upset when they die.  We say things like, “Their time had come.”  In previous periods of history when life expectancy was much shorter, people would have said this if you died at 50.  If someone we consider too young dies however, it’s upsetting and sad, and difficult to accept.  It doesn’t seem fair.  I don’t think the process of death really has a justice quotient attached to it.  Bodies are machines.  Machines break, break down and cease to function, and at some point they can no longer be repaired or maintained.

People who have not studied statistics may hold unwise hopes about life expectancy.  I think people don’t realize that the mathematical calculation of life expectancy is entirely based upon the rate of infant mortality.  Throughout most of history, most people who died did so as infants or as children.  If a person managed to survive into maturity, they were much more likely to live an “entire” life.  People who died of old age in the 15th century got just as old as people who die of old age now.  They had centenarians too.  Yes, access to medical care and technology does have an effect, but not nearly as much as people think, at least not in the statistical sense. Mathematically speaking, we have so many more old people now only because we have so many more PEOPLE, period.  More importantly, a greater percentage of us survive to maturity.

No matter what medical and nutritional technology we come up with, human bodies break down and stop working in vastly greater numbers after age 70.  I’m not going to bore you by inserting the charts here.  Let me put it this way.  If the curve were equal to the drop angle of a roller coaster you were riding in, you had better be strapped in real good.  We can’t prolong life.  What we can have an effect on is the quality of life during whatever time we’ve got.  That’s where exercise, eating well and access to good medical care count.  Nothing will prolong your life (with any significant quality) beyond the expiration date stamped into your DNA.  What we are learning more about is how to be healthier and stronger for more of that time.

Death can not be conquered.  This is a truth worthy of long contemplation.  Because death can’t be banished from your life, why not make a friend of it?  The reaper is going to be there whether you like it or not.  Smile at death, in the knowledge that death is an end to physical pain.  Since I adopted this attitude of friendliness toward death, it has been easier for me to be helpful and comfortable with those I know who are dying.  I still want to fight unnecessary pain wherever I see it, but I know death isn’t my enemy.  Despite any beliefs I might hold or guesses I might make, I do not know what happens after death.  Death brings relief from pain.  For now, that’s enough to know.

Have you faced death?

18 Comments

Filed under Metaphysics

18 responses to “My Friend Death

  1. kris513

    brilliant post

  2. Aw, thanks Kris. It’s hard to write about the big subjects effectively and edit it down to blog post size!

    (Kris is very good at knowing how to write just enough to make you think, without requiring you to spend your whole break time reading.)

  3. Jakeypoo

    If you were certain, or nearly so, that you stopped existing at death would that affect how you face it? Would you still be smiling at it?

    • I considered that long ago, and decided it made no difference, since either way it’s the end of pain, and if my consciousness ends with death, I won’t be around afterward to whine about whether or not I should have died or lived any differently. If there is an “afterlife”, I suppose I will cross that bridge when I come to it. If there is a God, I presume God is loving and will judge accordingly. If there’s a continuance of the energy of consciousness in some other way, I’ll have to adjust to whatever frequency is available.

      I’m comfortable not knowing. I’m willing to wait and see. The rest is all theoretical.

  4. Jakeypoo

    But the theory that consciousness ends at death is supported by all the evidence on the matter. The “theory” that consciousness survives death is supported by none, contradicted by all. It’s not as if both propositions are equally plausible or probable.

    • As I said, if it’s over, it’s over, and I won’t be there to quibble.
      I don’t see how this matter can be settled without actually dying. I really don’t NEED to know. I’m far more concerned with trying to live better. I expect death will take care of itself.
      My point in the article was that learning not to be afraid of death, and to view it as a natural and beneficial thing (as the end of physical pain) has helped me to live more honestly and act more ethically toward others who are suffering.

  5. I enjoyed your post and I think that grave pic is quite appropriate. Death knows no age nor does it respect time. It comes when you least expect…kinda like a bullet from the ceiling 😉

    As long as people remember that death is inevitable and there’s no need to worry about it then the important thing is, like you said, live honestly and act more ethically toward others. I highly recommend you watch all Final Destination installments – death supposedly has a design and cannot be cheated (spooky)

    • Yes, I did like that film, but I’ve only seen the first 2. Thank you for noting the pic. I thought the same thing when I found it in my library. It was a child running through a very old church graveyard In Durham, UK.

  6. In the fabulous words of Peter Pan, “to die will be an awfully big adventure”. Being pre-40 years of age, it may be odd to see me type that I agree with the boy who refused to grow up. But I can honestly say, the thought of dying holds no concern in my life. It’s possible my feelings stem from a good life, lived to the best of my ability, achieving every day what I wake up to achieve. A year and a half ago, my father was lying in a hospital bed, dying of renal failure. We all knew “nothing could be done”. He looked me in the eye and said, “kiddo, what’d’they want me to do to check outta this joint?” I said, “Pop, they want you to put your head back so you’ll stop snoring while you’re sleeping, they think your snoring’s keeping you alive.” He passed away the next day, in his sleep, without making a sound. I’m confident that only those who were not afraid to live, will be unafraid to die. There are certainly things, if I knew the moment was going to happen tomorrow, that would sadden me for a moment…but they all pertain to what others would miss out on if I were to fade away.

  7. Yes ,I have faced death on two occasions and was even pronounced as gone. But in both cases I lived. Therefater I took this handle because I gad twice stolen my life back from the grim reaper.

    I’m no longer afraid of death Mikey. I have survived cancer. I have survived a terrible accident caused by a drunk who was asleep at the wheel and creamed my vehicle. I have also just recovered from a head injury due to a fall. Ironically the nighthawk I saved prior to falling bit the crap out of my right and dominant hand, so I have a daily reminder of how good it felt to see her fly away before I became unconscious that returns whenever I feel pain in my hand.

    I have come to value every moment of the life I have to live and I have learned how to live it to the utmost. I am grateful for the time I have here and now. I am grateful that I married my best friend for I could never have made a better match. I am grateful for my family and for my friends both human and of other species.

    I have been a midwife when and unexpected birth took place and I have witnessed several deaths. When it’s time for me to journey through bardo I’ll not be reluctant.

    • timethief ( I call her TT) is one of the most interesting people I have met on WordPress. She writes both a personal blog, and one dedicated to tips for new bloggers. She’s unselfish and generous, but if you display hypocrisy, she might just cut you off at the knees. You can find her posting regularly in the Forums on WordPress.com.

      I would want her alliance in any battle.

  8. I have not personally faced death, but have often wondered if I have done everything I can do while I am here. My husband, my children, my friends; have I been there for them when they needed me to be? That’s what I think matters.

    I agree that we don’t know what comes after, but to learn that we’d have to die. It’s something I don’t need to know either!

    Very thought provoking

  9. to a gratefull dead…
    great post!

    Cris.

  10. Thanks Cris. (New visitors are always welcome.)

  11. This was a great post Mikey. I have never feared death, and I have faced it once, even from a young age, the thought of be no more never put fear in my heart. I think the only thing I ever feared was no being able to live my life to its capacity. I still feel like I may die at a young age, (who knows for what reason) but I am satisfied that I’m still aiming for my dreams, and I’m doing the very best I can in my life, and helping others in theirs. That’s all one can ask for right?

    Like I said. Great post.

    Kymlee

    • Thanks, Kymlee. I hope you aren’t in any hurry to die, and that your feeling is unfounded.

      You’re a performer. Sometimes, you’ll “die” on stage. That might be more painful than the real thing. It does make you feel alive to survive that.

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