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Nobody likes to think about death. There are any number of subjects that are more attractive to us than thinking about death. Death is morbid and depressing. We don’t like thinking about accidents or robberies either. Yet we do think about these things long enough to decide to invest in helmets or to install alarms. We insure ourselves against things which may never happen – fires, break ins, breakdowns. Why then is it so difficult to not think about and plan and prepare for our own death, which is certain?
Could it be that we have lost the knowledge and familiarity of death? How many of us have learned how to prepare for death from our teachers/family/community? Has medical progress led us to lose sight of death as an ever-present possibility? Nowadays, there seem to be almost endless options to extend life and postpone death.
And why do we prefer to focus only on this life? Might it be because we are not familiar with what might follow death? Do we unconsciously fear that this life is all we have, hence the need to grasp onto it as hard as we can? After all, none of us has been beyond death and returned with evidence that something continues. If the “afterlife” or “afterdeath” is unknown to us, then death may feel like walking into a black hole or stepping off a cliff.
Despite this, many people manage to die peacefully, fearlessly and even in a state of wonder or happiness. What is it that brings them peace at the moment when they are about to lose everything?
Death confronts us with the limits of empirical knowledge and brings us into a realm where it seems that only unprovable forces are effective. A realm where hope, trust, forgiveness, gratitude, love are the only things that bring us the peace and confidence we most deeply need. Pain management and physical comfort are extremely helpful when we are dying but they cannot in themselves remove our inner struggles and fears.
In this blog, I will be sharing stories and observations from my experience of accompanying people in their inner preparation for death and loss. I hope to address the dilemmas and struggles I come across in facing mortality in this evermore scientific, secular world where the vocabulary that expresses the mystery and wonder of the unknown is rapidly being lost.
Most of all, I hope to inspire confidence that preparing for death is most useful and doable. It brings us peace of mind and inner strength. It can remove our deepest fears and help us make the most of the time we have, however long or short.
Preparing for death = preparing for life.