Every once in awhile, life gives us all a reminder that we are mortal. We come face-to-face with these opportunities to think about our own death. And for some, this seems morbid, but I suppose that depends on what you think about death - do you have a resurrection?
A lot of persons say they're afraid of death. Sometimes, that's true. Sometimes, what they are really afraid of is dying.
Death is that moment when you cease to be. It raises all kinds of questions for us about whether we did enough, whether we loved enough, whether we lived enough. It makes us wonder what our family and friends really think about us, whether we've been valuable or meaningful in our time here. We wonder whether those we love will carry on without us and how easy or hard it will be for them to do so. We start to have all of these questions about the value of our life and, I guess, it starts to make us think about what we would do differently if we had the chance. It can be a real perspective-giver.
The fear of death comes in when we believe that perhaps we've wasted too much. When we've missed too many opportunities. When we aren't going to get to say I love you or I'm sorry or Thank you or whatever it is that we need to say to someone who has played an important role in our lives. Our fear of death comes when we start to think about all of the things that we haven't done that we'll never get to do if we die. It can change us.
Our fear of dying, on the other hand, is a bit different. Dying is the process of losing your life, and it can be either a short process or a long one. Dying can happen in the blink of an eye, or it can take years to drain the last bits of life out of us. Truthfully, we're all dying from the moment that we are born, but most of us don't think of it that way; we'd rather focus on our living.
The interesting thing about dying is that it doesn't seem to matter how it's happening, everyone seems to always want it to happen the other way. Someone dying a long, drawn-out (often painful) death often wishes it would be over in a second, that their next heartbeat would just be their last already. Someone who didn't know their last heartbeat was coming, we can only imagine, would have wished for more time. We know this from moments that we have with those whose disease or disorder comes on suddenly. Someone whose heart suddenly fails and they have mere hours to say goodbye will tell you a few hours is not enough.
Of course, a few years doesn't seem to be enough, either.
Dying takes away our living. It changes who we are because it changes the things that we can do. It changes how we have to interact with the world. Often, dying is a slow process that takes one thing after another after another away from us until we look in the mirror and don't realize anymore who we are. Until all of the things that we loved about living are gone and we're left just existing...just dying.
There are truths about death and dying that tie directly into our individual personalities and life experiences. Everyone has their own approach to these things, their own reactions. It's easy for us to talk about fear around death and dying - that fear of losing yourself, that fear of being gone forever, that fear of the unknown. That's the word we most often use about it - fear.
But for me, death and dying are not fear. And my guess is that for many others, the same thing is true. It's not fear, even though we call it that. It's something else.
And if we can figure out how to relate to death and dying through what we're really feeling about them, well, it might change the way that we think about death and dying.
So clearly, this week will be a fun week on the blog. You'll definitely want to hang around for this.