Sunday, May 4, 2008

Death

In a few days, I'll be traveling again. A close relative has cancer and it appears that after over 80 years of life, her end has come. And so, I now sit and wonder about life and death and my own mortality. Everyone in the family is grieving now.

As religious people, they have a "hope" for her- an expectation of life after death. This hope is concrete in their minds. Why then, the pain and anguish? If life after death is a real possibility, something to be counted on, and that life will be full of bliss and joy, why be sad? Why cry? As a young child, I took that view entirely. I'm told that after the death of a baby, I walked up to the casket, and whispered, "don't cry, she's just sleeping, she'll wake up in paradise". As a child, I accepted the possibility of life after death completely. As an adult, I have yet to reach a level of certainty about life and death. A large part of me believes that we do have souls, and that death is not an end, but the close of a chapter.

Unlike the child that whispered near the casket so many years ago, I have to admit that I'm not so resolute in that faith. Some people seem to break this general rule. The description of Socrates' death has him cheerful as he drinks a poison cocktail after receiving a death sentence.

It doesn't matter what faith or non-faith you hold, death raises a multitude of questions - the ethics and morality of how to die, how to sustain life, how to care for the dead, what happens to the dead. For the most part, our rituals and handling of death are more for the living than the dead. There are a multitude of different rituals designed to honor the dead. In the United States, there is the standard Christian style service. Some rituals in other lands involve things that many would say are immoral - such as cannibalism.

With all the fear and sadness and ritual, I wonder, do people really believe in the after-life? Looking at the behavior of people, I'm convinced that the vast majority have some deep rooted doubt. They are not the young child - they have seen enough of life to have lost some faith.

The general effect of death on me has been motivation. The current situation raises some questions. How do I want to die? How do I want to be remembered? What do I want for those around me after I die?

Without a doubt, my worst fear to this day is that I should die alone. For some reason, this has always been my worst fear, even back when I was a member of the cult. Maybe, it's because I never really managed a tangible relationship with another human while in the cult - either romance or friends. Sure, you have people you know, but real friends? Not often.

How do I want to be remembered? I don't know. The only thing I know is that I want to be remembered. When my time is up, I'd like someone to look back from time to time and remember me.

5 comments:

Janet said...

meh, I'll just throw you in the ditch with Keith.

Spyder said...

We are sad because we are going to miss them. We can be happy for them because they are out of pain. Or maybe if you believe in the afterlife be happy because they were a good person & you think they will go to Heaven.

When I was a kid I heard about how Elvis died on the toilet. So I always went as fast as I could because I didn't want anyone to find me like that.

Fate, you will be remembered. We'll have a wake for you. Cuz you know we bloggers like to drink & tell stories. Just don't rush it please!

Fate said...

Hmmm, just so long as we are both dead at the time...

Might be a bit strange otherwise...

Spyder said...

If I go before you then have a drink for me!

thepaintman said...

If you want to be remembered after you died. Have an open casket with a vistation.

Cruise on over to a Funeral Home and you can get a package deal. This way it'll be easier on the ones who are close to you.

If you get creamated your friends can do something with your ashes (like toss it in Tony's basement).