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Death

This year of our Lord, 2014 is already weighing heavy on my family. We had a death in the family last week and had barely finished the funeral on Monday when we had a second death and there is a third imminent as a cousin struggles with the final phase of stage four cancer.

Nothing focuses us as completely as death.

Some fear it, others who are suffering in great physical or emotional pain yearn for it but regardless, most of us are aware of death in a way we are not aware of anything else in this life.

Death is the final chapter; the end of life as we know it and every death we experience is a reminder of our own mortality.

I have reached that age in life where the people I have known and loved are dying. Some I have known since I was a child, others I have come to know later in my life. Some are family, some are friends or colleagues.

In the end, like birth, death comes for us all.

For many religions, death is considered a doorway to the afterlife as if there is only this life and one more. They may be right – I don’t know. In fact, none of us really know what is on the other side of the door. It’s there like a dim shadow that we try to ignore throughout our lives but the truth is that we start to die the moment we are born.

Every day; every breath moves us closer to the last.

For me personally, death holds no fears. I have almost died a half dozen times from either illness or accident and I have come to realize that my only real fear is that those I love will be well after I’m gone.

I have attended so many funerals in my life but the two that were the most difficult were for children. One died from SIDS and the other was struck by a car.

Death is never harsher than when it comes too soon. No parent should ever have to outlive their child and I don’t know how parents who have lost a child make it through. I don’t know that I would have the strength.

Since the day she was born, I have worried about my daughter. When she was a baby, I would check on her constantly as she lay sleeping in her crib. I was terrified of the shadow of SIDS claiming her. Later, when she was almost four, my wife told me to stop because she was in no danger of SIDS and I was scaring our daughter.

The fear of death, it seems, can make even the most rational of us somewhat irrational.

My daughter will turn forty this year and I still worry about her as she goes about successfully living her life and raising her children and I have added my grandchildren to the worry list.

Death has a considerable power over even those of us who do not fear it for ourselves.

No matter what you believe about this life or a possible life beyond the one we share now; no matter if you are a person of faith, agnostic or atheist; death is a natural part of life. Everything that lives – dies and it seems to me that we probably should be less afraid and more accepting of it.

But we are not.

There is a broad and diversified industry dedicated to helping us postpone our deaths. There are health regimes, cosmetic surgery, supplements all intended to try to keep us from aging or at least give the appearance that we are not growing old. We are only fooling ourselves – death could care less what we look like or how robust we feel.

For the more extreme there is cryogenics; the freezing of the body which is to be stored so that at some future date it can be regenerated by new breakthroughs in medical science.

Some of us are prepared to believe almost anything in an attempt assuage our fear of the inevitable.

I believe it is how we perceive death that will determine how we meet it. Of all the things I have read, heard or thought about death, I believe that Carlos Castaneda may have stated it most accurately.

“Death is the greatest trip of all – that’s why they save it for last.”

The worst part of death for me, beyond the mourning for someone I love, is the funeral. They tend to be dreary, hushed affairs for the most part choreographed with slick precision by professionals from the funeral industry who go through this several times every week. It somehow makes it all seem so plastic and artificial for me. Whatever is intended, funerals tend to be more about mourning a death than about celebrating a life and what that life brought to each of us. I would like my funeral to break away from that.

I told Maggie after the funeral on Monday that I didn’t want traditional funeral dirges or sad music at my funeral. I wanted her to have Latin guitar music played and at the end, when it was over, I thought that Celebrate by Kool and the Gang would be perfect.

And I still do.

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© 2013 Maggie’s Bear

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  • Gramma Barb

    If we have been blessed to enjoy life, we have been preparing for the final chapter ….. I believe the hardest part is trying to hold death at bay… we all reject the passing of loved ones and friends. When we refer to the celebration of life I think we should actually celebrate what each of us have brought to and left behind for the other! My plan is to have the largest garden party in the county with everyone entrenched in surrounding life as all move forward.

    • MaggiesBear

      Well said

  • oldwhiteguy

    sentiments I have been pondering today as we prepare to attend a funeral of an old friend. two this week and several more, three for sure, in the not to distant future. I am not afraid of death but no matter how I personally feel, the organism that is my brain and body has more of a say in the matter than I do. a year ago I found out that my brain was not going to let me relax in the face of death, at least not while I was conscious. I am still here and much like you I worry about both the children and grandchildren even though I have no control over what may happen.

    • MaggiesBear

      Perhaps it is that understanding that we really don’t have control over what will happen that is behind part of our apprehension about dying.

  • wounded dove

    I have a close friend dying of cancer. I was blessed with a comforting thought today I’ll share.

    This life and cancer (or other illnesses) are part of a dying, brittle cocoon we are in. Death is when we finally break free of this hellish cocoon and become the beautiful butterflies we are meant to be. It’s a transition, not an end.

    How much better to recognize the beauty of each soul now.

    *Hugs* to you Bear, and your family. I know this grief of which you speak.

    • MaggiesBear

      Thank you. As always, I appreciate your thoughts and your support.

  • Tripper523

    I hear you, Bear. I understand and identify with what you said, as my own trials seemed to be in the last couple of months in 2013, regarding too numerous deaths, either suddenly or due to illnesses or accidents. Any way you slice it, life is indeed brief, and I take comfort in the fact that God has everything mapped out and taken care of through Christ. Otherwise, my only humanly apprehension is that “unknown” momentary sensation when crossing over or opening the door to the next realm. Sort of like getting yourself on that “last great ride”, and it’s too late to bail out. I’m not one for trying to unduly extend beyond the natural span an additional measure of existence here, so I wouldn’t be too interested in cryogenics. I do, however, ponder as to whether those global warming advocates considering participation may be fearful of a premature thaw.

    • MaggiesBear

      Life as we know it is indeed brief but I wonder if the life we are that is beyond our understanding is as brief as we fear.

  • Gerry

    We are nearing this stage as well and your fears of SIDs echoed – I too would check our 3 for years. My fervent hope is to not outlive them. At the celebration of my life I want this song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcQXZOMCNF8 along with several other foot stomping gospel songs.

    • MaggiesBear

      I’m Anglican and grew up with very classical choral music but I have always found gospel to be incredibly uplifting and full of joy. I believe we share the same desire to have those who attend our funeral leave it feeling lighter than when they first arrived. I would like my funeral to be a reminder of the life we shared, the funny memories and good moments rather than a memorial to my death.

      Your choice of gospel music achieves that.

  • matthew brandley

    Bear. Forgive my grammar. NOt the best in the world. I use to be a certified nursing assisatant here in the u s for 14 years. I switched careers in 95 and became certified as a emt . I worked with several transport ems cos in phila. taking patients in and out of medical facilites , hospials, nursing homes. docs appointments. ect . The whole gammut. I also found time to vol at busy suburban ems squad for over 1,000 housrs a year for 12 years before a doc walked in my hospital room and told me my days of employment where done as I lay there doped up on pain meds due to several herniated discs , not being able to walk. I have had several deths also over the years in my family. My mom has had several strikes and has had a heart attack . If it wasnt for me stopping by to say high several times she would not be around. . being a officer at my squad at the time and acces to a county radio has its privelages. her health has detiorated mentaly and its frustrating to se it in a family member . But like you I see it as a part of life. I have seen drug o d of 18 y ogirl rip a family apart. yet I have seen it in somebody dying of cancer with the family welcome it with open arms and celebrate it with such joy. the memory of a loved one should always be celebrated. never be held in anger or anguish. . hurt and anger always holds people back from moving ahead.

    • MaggiesBear

      I don’t think you need to worry about your grammar. I think you said that very well. Thank you for sharing it with me.