Life and death
As we get closer to the end than the beginning, we begin to think about how we want our end to be. Itís even often the topic of conversations we have with friends. And what I hear is pretty consistent.
We donít want to be warehoused; put in a nursing home by relatives and forgotten about. We donít want to spend our last days on earth hooked up to tubes and machines. And itís not rare for the last days of our lives to be spent in absolute agony and pain with no relief until death takes the pain away. Whatís wrong with us wanting the same dignity of life we had when we were young and vibrant?
And yet, when many people get to their end stage, they end up exactly like they said they didnít want to. The reason for that is either practical or profound. The practical answer is that they have lost the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves and, consequently, theyíre made by someone else. Itís certainly not rare when this happens that these decisions are made by family members who were fully aware of the personís wishes before they suffered mental deterioration. But because they either donít share their loved oneís sentiments or feel guilty about doing something their loved one canít decide on their own, they keep them alive for as long as possible, often using any means possible.
But sometimes itís the very people who made these declarations earlier in their lives who change their minds as they get older, even though their thought processes are the same now that they used to be. What causes this change of heart is profound because itís so simple. We donít want to die. We want to be kept alive as long as possible using any means necessary because weíre afraid of death. Weíre afraid of death because weíve never been dead before. We have no recollection of anything before we were born so this life weíve been leading is all we have to compare it with. Because even though death is the logical ending to life and something that happens to all of us, we donít get to talk to those people who died before us. We canít take any comfort in their experiences after death because we donít know what experiences, if any, they had.
One of the biggest fears all human beings have had is the fear of the unknown. We were terribly afraid of the unknown when we were children. We always wanted to sleep with a light on somewhere in the house because we were afraid of the dark. We were afraid of the dark because we couldnít SEE in the dark which once again manifests itself in the fear of the unknown.
And thereís no greater fear of the unknown for most people than death. We canít imagine not being here any longer because, in our limited minds, weíve ALWAYS been here. We canít imagine leaving behind our work, our hobbies, our friends, and our families, sometimes in a heartbeat.
Many of the people who died last night had plans for today because they had no way of knowing that death was about to knock on their door.
The only solution to this fear of death most of us have is to have certain knowledge of what lies beyond. Will there be another life, will we be reincarnated, will we spend eternity in heaven or do we just cease to exist, like we did before we were conceived?
Itís an issue that has plagued theologians, philosophers, and doctors forever because they donít have any proofs either other than the religious beliefs they hold that are based on faith rather than proven fact.
I hope when my time comes that my life will be celebrated rather than mourned. That people will laugh and joke about the times we spent with each other rather than mourn my loss. I hope my favorite blues music is played rather than funeral dirges. And I hope that people stand up and talk about the good times we had rather than a preacher trying to save souls.
Thatís my wish but since I wonít be here any longer, whether it is fulfilled or not will be left up to someone else.
Iíll be in Arkansas on vacation next week so my next column will appear on July 21st.