Death Is Scary.


Been confronted with human mortality multiple times this past week.

The sister of a friend of my mother’s died.

A friend of mine, in the prime of her youth, has been hospitalized.

A teacher has left work for many weeks, due to sickness.

I don’t believe in destiny, but it’s almost as if Death rose up from his home beneath this world and grinned his skull-face and gave me a wink this week. To say, “Hey, don’t forget. You’re going to die one day, too.”

I’ve written about mortality before, and how I’ve accepted it, wholeheartedly. I try to remind myself daily that I’m going to die, and, morbid as it might seem to some people, it helps me to keep my life in perspective, get my priorities straight.

But it doesn’t make it any less scary. Especially when it happens to people around you, people you have known, and you sit there at home and wonder about the darkness they are wading through, lying on their hospital beds, emotions of regret, hope, desperation, eddying and swirling inside them.

Death is so, so, so scary. It’s scary to face the void. It’s scary to watch others slip into the void, and know you are destined for the same route. It’s scary to think that you don’t know what might happen next, that you might die before your dreams come to fruition, before your words see the light and are viewed by the world. I think, personally, that that’s the scariest thing of all. What if I don’t get published before I die? What if? What if?

When you’re given a reality shock like I have this past week, you can’t help but imagine what it would be like. How degrading it would be. I know a lot of people imagine pain, and sorrow, and their loved ones crying beside their hospital bed, but can you imagine how demeaning it is, to be a shivering lump of flesh beneath a sheet, raw and suffering? Forget philosophy, art, literature, and all the magical wonders that elevate us above apes, and makes us feel sophisticated and ethereal.

For, big and smart as you are, tiny mindless bacteria and viruses can dismantle your entire world, break down your limbs, turn your blood to thick soup, your muscles and sinews to feeble mush. We face the ultimate, primitive weakness within ourselves when we are dying – that we, in the end, like the other creatures of this Earth, are not Gods, but animals.

Only, when we’re well and living in a rich country, we can act lofty and worldly, and read our fine literature and sip our rich wines and wear our clothes and jewelry and think much of ourselves. But when we’re dying, when we’re sick, or when we’re without clothing, without food, without sustenance, we devolve back into a gibbering, anguished animal, as desperate and pitiful as a sick dog frothing at the mouth. And we don’t like that. We don’t like to face the primitive beasts within ourselves. We think we’re better than that. We sometimes think we’re unbeatable.

And it’s this complete and utter vulnerability that makes death so awful. For all your money, for all your intelligence, for all your kindness, for all your words, death will still knock you down, and pluck the life from your limbs, still the beating of your heart, and leave you nothing more than dead flesh, protein, coagulated amino acids.

And it doesn’t matter if we laugh in the face of death, if we spit in his face, or if we beg him to not take us, please, please, for God’s sake, I’m not ready, he still comes knocking at her door, in a jangle of bones, his dark orbits impenetrable, to take us away, quietly, quietly. We’re just fooling ourselves when we think our reaction to death matters, that being acting noble will somehow make things better, a feeble fist-shake in the impassive face of the universe. It doesn’t matter.

So what matters?

Well, if you want to take a nihilistic perspective of it, nothing, really. Yeah, that’s right. Nothing. Matters. But that makes everyday living rather difficult, so I’ll leave you with something else. Something that everyone harks on about but no-one seems to follow.

The only thing you can do is to die in peace. And the only way you can die in peace, is if you have accomplished what your heart yearned to do during your measly lifetime. Otherwise, Death will take you screaming in agony, the regret scorching through your soul like a million tiny deaths before the real one.

Yes, maybe it doesn’t matter whether you achieve your dreams or not, maybe the world won’t be the better or worse for it, but it’s better for you. That’s all you can hope for. To die, knowing in your heart that you did what you wanted to do, lived the life you wanted to live. Because if there’s anything more sad than death, it’s to die with regrets. That is a level of suffering unparalleled to any in the human experience.

So, please. Death. Yes. Scary? Yes. Awful? Yes. Painful? In all likelihood. But make the final moment when you close your eyes better for yourself. Unleash your soul in a spurt of golden wonder while you live, so that it can simmer down into gentle ashes when you die, not rage impotently like a fire being put out before its time, and perhaps be reborn in a trilling phoenix-bird of magic another lifetime. You know. If you believe in that sort of thing. It’s romantic all the same, though.


5 thoughts on “Death Is Scary.

  1. As I have said before the Stoics discussed death in detail almost daily. My husband, an INFP, talks about them a lot and the meaning of death. You are right, it is something to ponder.

    • Yes, you did. 🙂 I think I would be a good Stoic. Sorry if I tend to repeat myself, or talk a little too much about death. I just have this fascination with mortality that can get a bit old sometimes. It’s the inevitability of it, the end, the void – all of life seems to be contained within death. Now I think I’m just not making sense. It’s always good to remember that thinking about death is good, but not to dwell on it too long to the point where it stops me from living.

  2. Interesting view. I guess each person has its own way to face the idea of death or the situation of death itself. Our species always looked for ways to transcend this unavoidable fate. This still is happening today. With biotechnology, scientists are trying to uncover the secrets of DNA and the brain in order to prolong as far as possible the human’s life span. There are speculations of even transcend human consciousness. Take for example the internet that we’re using now. In its most elementary components (packages transmission), the internet is intrinsically redundant. Although is a technology (a tool), it shows how humans have a predisposition to design such communication vehicles to interconnect everything else with everything else. Vlogs, blogs, forums, chats, online communities, instant message software, gadgets, cel phones, everything somehow connects all of us. We are a collective consciousness.

    Personally, as far as I know, there is no transcendence upon death in a way that could mean: I’m going to live again after my death in the same body. My consciousness is going to be the same. I don’t believe in such a thing. For instance, I don’t believe in life after death in the way religions claim. However, yes, it’s possible to cheat and win over death. Actually, lots of people already did that. What? Let me explain with a simple example. Imagine our world at dozens of thousands of years ago (before the invention of the wiring system). We still have rock art. People (our ancestors) drew pictures of their everyday landscapes, which includes animals, mountains, rivers and their idea of representing themselves. Of course, all humans die. But their ideas live. The content, the meaning, the descendants are alive. We are here. We have what our previous generations managed to sustain. I know, the world is not about humans only. But our biggest concerns are about keeping our species alive. If someone wrote a book, drew a picture, made music or somehow contributed with someone else, the content of this person (the abstract idea, the conceptual realization or the masterpiece) is going to last for centuries. Even millennia. In other words, it’s possible to create a kind of immortal consciousness of ourselves. We just need to ‘print’ it into something. In a blog, in a letter, in architecture, in music, in science or in others people mind. If we teach or tell someone about something, we’re propagating ourselves. Children don’t carry only their parents’ genetics. They also are influenced by ideals and all sorts of thinking. A way to be immortal among humans or even in the planet is to contribute or change something. To create. To produce something useful, so other people will keep improving upon it and using it. And we are experts changes. We change everything we touch. Even our brains are changing along the years. Even the atoms that we are build upon! In a decade, almost all atoms in our bodies are going to be replaced, eventually. Isn’t this an astonishing fact?

    Indeed, death is scary. But…. but…. let’s try a thought experiment. From now, don’t take me seriously. Suppose I had lived 900 years. Yes, I’m 900 years old. Just imagine this crazy situation. An exception in mankind. There we go: I know all human math. I understand everything about quantum physics (I had the time to learn it). I know everything about evolutionary biology. I had eaten all kinds of meals that humans produced. I can name all species on Earth known so far. I know all kinds of pleasures and had all kinds of sexual experiences that imagination can create. I got fluency and proficiency in almost all human languages and dialects and mastered all developed edge technologies at the time. Even yet… even yet, I didn’t create anything useful for anybody. To make things worse, suppose I’m also intended to live forever unless I kill myself. Think about it. Take ten seconds at least to ponder this. I have all experience, I know everyone I wanted to know. I got everything I wanted to get. I mastered all arts I was interested. But did not create anything (inconceivable but remember, just a thought experiment). The remaining experience that I don’t have is death itself. Death. Death. DeAtH. dEaTh. deATh. D…E…A…T…H!! What a temptation! How boring life is. I have everything. I can do anything. Do you know what? I would kill myself. Just to have the last experience. But before that, I would contribute. Create something.

    Okay, okay. Sounds bad, right? Meaningless, don’t you think? How do we know we are alive? Would be because of the notion of time? Because we… feel?? Yes, that makes sense. We feel. The brain produces feelings and emotions. Also, ideas, concepts and art. I am not dead, yet. But suppose 5 minutes after I publish this comment of mine, I get a heart attack and I die. Would you still know that I existed? Would you still reply to this comment? Even after I’m no longer alive? What if somebody notify you that the ‘owner’ of this comment is dead, would you still reply it? If so or not so, why? The idea still live. Life is scary. Lots of relatives of mine had died. It’s painful, but it’s also something that… I accept. I accept death. And this relieve from the burden of being scared of it. 5 minutes. 1 day. 1 week. 5 months. 23 years. When am I going to die?

    Thank you for a thought provoking idea. Moreover, thanks for draw attention to our fate. It’s good to have it in mind. Acceptance is useful to face death. But I have an alternative approach. My secret revealed: I ignore thinking about death. Fuck death. HAHAHAHAHA. I try to have a good time while I’m alive. Have a good conversation. Have fun with a few friends. Learn about our world. Study What interests me. Read about other people lives. And someday, I hope to return this back by creating or writing something that someone is going to use or… just notice. Wow, sorry for a long comment. The hands just didn’t stop typing.

    • Don’t be sorry, all your thoughts were amazing! Yes, you’re right. It’s one of the reasons I want to get published. So a few words of my soul can live on. I think the only point of existence is to give gifts to humanity, whether they be art, inventions, aid, etc. That idea of living that long, and the only experiencing remaining to be death – sorry, writer part of me kicking in, but that would make a pretty interesting story. Wonder how vampires handle it. 😉 Yes, indeed, let’s not forget to live.

  3. Yes death is inevitable. It will happen to us. Nobody know’s when. The only to mitigate it is make the most of life and do what you want to do, and what you feel like doing. That’s not easy, but otherwise it will consume you. Literally and figuratively. My way to combat it, was get one of the most dangerous jobs going, it helped me to reconcile my thoughts of mortality and to create an equilibrium. I’m almost at peace as I know it may happen at some point (sooner than if I didn’t do what I do you could argue) but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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