Heidi will tell you she’s afraid of heights, yet she has no problem living on the 23rd floor. She’ll even open the French doors to her balcony. But she won’t stand on a chair to change a light bulb, or a stepladder to clean a window. What Heidi is really afraid of is falling. As one Gent put it, falling isn’t so bad, it’s that sudden stop at the end.
Walter thinks he’s afraid of water. Yet he showers daily, and enjoys the hot tub. 2700 people drowned in pools and spas in 2007. At least that many fell in the shower. Yet Walter bubbles merrily along. But lake, ocean, or large pool? Fageddaboudit. At home, Walter feels he can control the water and its affect on him. Probably a water trauma makes him feel less confident around large amounts of H2O. Walter is afraid of losing control, not water.
Sandy is afraid of spiders. Yeah, she’s right. She is.
What of death, then?
If you ask folks why they’re afraid of death – and most of them are – they’ll give myriad reasons. Loneliness, pain, prolonged illness, failing mental acuity, expense. Look at this list again. These are situations in which people find themselves BEFORE death.
Oddly, many people equate death with violence. In proportion to the population, a small percentage of people actually die violently. Again, the violence comes before death, it causes death. It is not the death experience.
Every sacred text of every faith talks about an afterlife. So we are informed that death is taking leave of our physical form. It is not the end of something. It is a TRANSITION – a change – into another way of being. These are not just nice stories, meant to give the kiddies something to memorize in religion classes. These are tenets that are an integral part of our belief system. Why, then, do so many people fear it?
The big hint is the word change. And since no one we know has been there, and come back to tell us about it, we have no idea how the change will feel. Ah, there it is: fear of the unknown. That’s valid. But again, go back to your religious studies. It’s all there in black & white.
There are many, many accounts from folks who have had what we call “Near Death Experiences”. Each and every one relates a feeling of calm, peace, unfathomable beauty and love. Most regret having to come back. None of them was afraid. We love to hear these stories, why can’t we take them to heart?
So let’s look at the real causes for concern.
Pain and suffering. While this can’t be avoided, it can be managed. Establish a Living Will, with your specific directives about your care. Make sure everyone you know is aware of it, and knows where to find it (on the fridge door with all other medical and emergency info is best). Put a copy on file with your doctor’s office and your hospital.
Aging. While we balk at the price of gas, we’ll readily spend what equals $105 per gallon on wrinkle creams and skin treatments. We’re a fickle bunch. We’ll all be beautiful after the transition. It’s pride, pure and simple, which makes us think we can put it off.
Loneliness/sadness. We feel this before our own death. We won’t feel it after. Others will miss us, it’s human nature. It’s part of the maturing process. If you don’t think anyone will miss you, do something now to change that.
Dementia. Again, this is a fear of life, not death. And when you get to that point, you won’t know it.
Take a close look, and figure out what the real dread is. Live every day in preparation for your transition. Spend the rest of your time here being the person you want to be remembered as. Don’t leave any unfinished business. Take every opportunity to express love. After you pass on, you will know