#takeonnews: The Harrowing D Word

The harrowing D word is death. From what I have observed, most people can get themselves to say the word but only in the appropriate circumstances and in hushed voices. I can only hypothesize these people think of death as unsettling and, maybe, even deranged.

…we can lessen our fear of dying by living a regret-free life, meditating on our effect on subsequent generations, and confiding in loved ones about our death anxiety.
Irvin Yalom – How to Die by Jordan Michael Smith

 

Some people may proclaim I am obsessed with the idea of death. All I have been able to say in response is I cannot help the way I feel about it. It is part of life. True, the end part but still, it is one of the aspects that defines our existence. After reading Jordan Michael Smith’s article in The Atlantic magazine, the remarks that have been tossed my way no longer leave me frustrated and angry with people who are intimidated by the thought of not being alive in this world.

Irvin Yalom [psychotherapist] stated, in the interview, that talking about the fears of death help us come to terms with it. For someone who is horrified by the thought, I can only imagine how they would struggle with this type of conversation. I do not seem to have a problem with this subject and end up posing questions about how it would feel to die in various circumstances and what is beyond the final act of departing. These questions horrify some people.

I have few regrets in my life. Most of what has happened throughout the years have come about as reactions to the circumstances I was facing at the time. True, there were times when I could have made better decisions but, for the most part, I used the knowledge I had at the time and tried my best to weigh the consequences right in deciding on a course of action. I was not always right but it was not because of any lack of trying to do the right thing at that particular moment. I do not feel I need time to rectify any mistakes I have made in my past. I could die in the next minute and all would be good.

This is not to say I have been an angel all during my life. I certainly did many things that were flawed, cruel, foolish, or impulsive. Sometimes it was not just one of these things too but two or three. Nevertheless, once coming to my senses, I made atonements for those actions. Although I felt intense guilt when realizing what I had done, I do not harbor guilt. Does this make me brutish or insensitive? I do not know.

I thought it odd that Yalom mentioned meditation, yet, with more time in solemn thought, I recognized the fact that I do use the practice to clear out the clutter of the details of my life in order to better understand the big picture of life. In doing this, I believe I have a comprehension of the circle of life that many people are unaware of, are ignoring, or are just too frightened to take the time to consider. Could it be that when I meditate I am making peace with myself and, therefore, am more open to the subject of death? It is a possibility, although, I think other aspects of my existence also come into play with my nonchalant attitude towards death.

I would think Yalom is comfortable with this topic because of his profession as a psychotherapist. After all, how many of his clients/patients have needed to talk about this very subject? I can only presume the number is large. Yet, during his interview with Jordan Michael Smith, he gave the impression he possessed some profound worriment about the departure that is undoubtedly going to take him. Of course, he is 86 years old too. I am over twenty years younger than him so I might feel some apprehension later on that has not touched me thus far. Conversely though, seeing I have had a near-death experience, I may not feel any of the disquietude associated with death when it befalls me because I have a flash of what it could or would be.

Death continues to be a mystery. I am aware I am not the only one who finds the subject thought-provoking but I do believe our numbers are few.

§

Are you anxious about death?

“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?”
Edgar Allan Poe, The Premature Burial

 

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16 Replies to “#takeonnews: The Harrowing D Word”

  1. Those who fear death are those without hope of something to follow. Not in a religious way with a judgement followed by ascent or descent, but more in he way of the soul continuing on after death has taken the husk,
    Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sure some fear death for the very reason you state, thinking there is not anything after it. However, some who harbor guilt may be afraid of what they will face in that afterlife.

      Like

  2. This is a really interesting article, Glynis. You put a lot of thought into it and made me think about my own attitudes about death. Because my mom is both very elderly and also very ill with Alzheimer’s, it’s a topic I do think about.

    When I talk with other friends, nearly all of us have the same concerns: that we would like our family members who are ill to die peacefully in their sleep. I bet that’s a nearly universal hope. The other is that we want to be with our loved ones so they know they aren’t alone and can be with someone who cares and will comfort them.

    I think regret is a major consideration – for what we don’t achieve, for talents wasted or incomplete, or bad deeds we don’t atone for or correct. Maybe people feel anxious about leaving problems and unfinished business behind for other folks to have to deal with. Certainly worth a suggestion to lead as healthy and honorable a life as we can, but then we are human and subject to odd foibles and bad tempers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree, Shari, that probably most people, if not all, want to pass on peacefully. Yet, what if a person does not have it that lucky and dieing a slow and painful. At least when death finally takes that person, all of the awfulness is really over.

      I do wonder how people who cannot express regret and ask for atonement for whatever they have done or have not done look upon death. For that matter, I wonder how they make it through each day of life.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well-written and thought-provoking post, Glynis. I sense a comfort with your writing in this piece.

    I don’t think a lot about death. I truly feel that we add to (or subtract from) our legacy each day. Having recently watched as my mom faced her own death, I saw that while she still hoped to hang around, she was comfortable with the life she had lived and confident of her place in the afterlife. Not a bad balance sheet to leave behind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dan, you seem to be in a good place with this subject. 😎 Few are though.

      Yes, I was comfortable writing this piece. Maybe I am not made for fiction and should be studying more about the different facets of non-fiction.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t fear death though I may change my mind when it gets close. I think it’s a change for the good, or at least not for the bad. I have no idea what comes next but whatever it is doesn’t frighten me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am like you, Jacqui. I do not pretend to have an idea of what comes after death despite the near-death experience. I just have this deep-down feeling that all will be well afterward. 😎

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  5. I’d say my anxiety over death has been kicked up a notch given the aggressive cancer I’m dealing with and it’s high recurrence rate even after being conquered by treatment. On the other hand, every breath we take brings us closer to death, so it’s a given every second brings us closer to death no matter how “healthy” we are. When I taught Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death,” I would pause when talking about the imagery of the ebony clock striking in the story and have students look at the wall clock for a few seconds in silence. Then I would tell them they were all that much closer to death. It really freaked them out, but got the point across!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I must say, Jeri, I am surprised that your students were so rattled by the exercise you had them do. Or maybe I should not be. My English teacher in my sophomore year at high school freaked out when I handed in a poem about death.

      I think I can understand your uneasiness about death right now. Cancer is hovering over you like a suffocatingly blanket right now. I am pretty sure I would feel anxiety too with those circumstances.

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  6. Wow. this one made me think, Glynis. I don’t think I’m anxious about death, but I wonder if I might become so when it’s actually happening, or soon to happen to me. When I asked my dad when he was ninety if he was afraid of dying, we had a rich and full discussion, so I lost my hesitation to speak of death and to contemplate my own, though others sometimes react like something is wrong with me. I wish we could do away with the many euphemisms we use to avoid the words dead, death and dying. I don’t understand why saying someone passed is better than saying someone died. Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone in my openness to the idea of dying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Once again, I think it is because of where both of us are from. Death happened often in the Rockies before electricity, cars, and whatever else from the 20th century. It was definitely a part of life more than it was back east. We have probably passed on these thoughts to our kids as well. I wonder, can we pass they further along to friends who are not Westerners?

      Additionally, with me anyway, I have a tendency to think more like the Native Americans of the high plains and the Rockies, which influences my thoughts about death.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Luciana, thank you for the wonderful compliment. 🙂

      I did not think about death until after I had the near-to-death experience when I was seventeen. Also, I am farther along in life. Death has a habit of showing up more often now as parents, aunts, and uncles depart from this life.

      Liked by 1 person

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