A fact of life
People will often say that it is not death they fear, but the actual process of dying. I think that may be true for most people. For after all, you’re alive, and then the next moment your dead, the dying process however can actually takes decades for many. Aging is a death process that speeds up of course after a certain age for the majority that live to be adults; well at least in the first world. I have no doubt that if I lived in a poorer country, I would have died long ago. For instance, I would most likely have died in my early sixties if I was not able to get a pace-maker put in. In the year 2000 while visiting my good friend Dr. Glen Johnson, as he was giving me a pre-op physical, he discovered that I had very high blood pressure. He mentioned to me that if he was not a cardiac specialist he would have had to take me to the ER. Who knows how long my blood pressure was that high. So without my BP medicines, I doubt I would go long without having a stroke of some kind….in any case, may get one anyway, that is how my dad died. “My dad myself”, as the saying goes sort of, I changed it a tad.
It is not hard to accept the fact that aging is a fact of life, since many have to go through it. To think of ones death is another matter all together. As Freud stated: “when we think of our own death, we do so as an observer”,…we don’t observe our deaths of course; so that exercise is for the most part a waste of time. We will each experience it if we are in fact conscious when we die. Most of us won’t be I believe. It is our aging bodies that bring to mind our decease and since we can project into the future, this will for some lead to a great deal of anxious concern, for others, not much, until they get the word from their doctor that they have months or at most a few years to live.
There are believers and atheist who are terrified of death, as well as those in both camps who don’t seem to be. So to fear death or not to fear it has nothing to do with ones faith, I am not sure why some fear death and others don’t, at least on a conscious level. I would assume that the instinct to survive assures that there is fear on some level. I doubt most of us would make it through life if there was no actual fear, even if it is instinctual only. Humans are not bound by instinct, but it still has some control over our lives. In areas where it does not, there is often self destructive chaos.
As a care-giver, I have found that most people who reach a certain age seem to lose their fear of death from a very deep place. I have heard the same goes for children. I have also experienced that very few are actually conscious when they die. The body, when organ failure sets in and ones toxicity increases, tends to fall into a deep slumber, if not an actual coma, which of course also happens. The body sedates itself it seems when death approaches for most. Those dying can be aroused for short periods of time, or they may rally for a time, but they soon fall back into a deep sleep.
When I was in the VA for my pace-maker, it did hit me that death could happen at anytime, as well as how easy it is to get sick, or to have a bodily organ suddenly without warning, to show itself as a danger to one ongoing survival. At that time there was no fear, in fact I got the feeling that I was at the beginning of an ever wider road that was opening up before me. However that does not mean that the next time I get an intimation of my morality that I will be so sanguine. As I said above, the survival instinct will insure some level of the fear of death, which is what keeps us going I believe in this crazy, wonderful world, which is also filled with deep suffering along with the times of intense joy.