Thursday, April 10, 2008

Facing Death

After decades of fearing death, I've arrived at a cocktail of thoughts that have, for a year now, put my fears to rest.
  • Remembering that I'll be aware of nothing after I'm dead, just like I wasn't aware of anything before I was born.
  • If the dying process is too painful, I can (hopefully) end my life. Someone just told me that breathing helium (widely available) is a relatively discomfort-free way to, when desired, end it.
  • Probably, when I'm dying, I'll feel quite sick and/or tired, and thus ready to go.
  • The moment a fear-inducing thought of death intrudes, I immediately distract myself by asking, "How can I--this next second--make the biggest difference possible.
  • I have signed up for cryonic suspension: to be frozen upon my death until science has advanced enough to repair what killed me and then awaken me. I realize this scenario is highly speculative, but it buys me a bit of comfort to think I might not be dead forever.
  • I spend as many of life's moments as possible trying to use my best skills to make a difference in the world today and to leave a legacy that will live on after I die.


aces said...

I have signed up for cryonic suspension: to be frozen upon my death until science has advanced enough to repair what killed me and then awaken me.

At the current rate of "credential creep," in 50 years you'll need a masters' degree to flip burgers and a PhD for anything resembling a middle-class living. By the time you're revived, with a lousy PhD, you'll probably be considered functionally illiterate!

Anonymous said...

Great blog--a much needed discussion given little attention in the media.

Additional death thoughts:
1. I remind myself of the state of being dead as the same state I was in before I was born or conceived: no pleasure, no pain, no me!

2. The rapid advance of science and technology will continue to ease the pain involved with old age and dying.

Michael R. Edelstein

Anonymous said...

I'm not entirely sure whether I'm afraid of the fact that one day I and my loved ones will no longer be living. Most of the time, I'm just trying to get on with the business of living. I don't think about death, not because I'm afraid of it, but because most days it doesn't cross my mind.

It does sometimes, though. I live not far from a large cemetery in my hometown, and often I walk around in there for exercise. I always slow down a little bit when I come across the graves of children, some who have lived for only a few years, and others that died so young they didn't even have names of their own. It's very humbling to see those.

Another humbling sight in a cemetery: the very old gravestones. Hundreds of people who've been dead for more than a century whose graves likely haven't been tended or visited by loved ones for a long time. Oftentimes the stones are cracked, knocked over, or covered with moss. These are not far from monuments and very large tombs of my city's famous families, who decided they wanted, or maybe needed, to be remembered after death.

If anything about death scares me right now, it's that my grave will end up like those forgotten ones, abandoned and unattended. It's the knowledge that one day, I'll pass anonymously into history, and nobody will know or care who I am. A forgotten grave is a stark reminder that this will happen, no matter who you are or how fancy and elaborate your tomb is. Knowing this will happen, I'd rather get it over with as soon as possible.

So when I die, I won't be frozen, and I don't want to be buried. I want to be cremated and have my ashes scattered, probably at sea. After that, there'll be no trace of me. For some reason, this gives me comfort in facing death.

Anonymous said...

Please! Everyone get over yourself. This is one of the most self-serving topics have seen in a long time. We ALL think of our mortality, but the baby boomers seem to obsess over it. People have died before you, and they will die after you. Do something useful such as signing up as a hospice volunteer. Hold the hand of a child as they die. This will assist you in "getting out of your own head."


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