A Few Thoughts on Death and Dying

Heaven

A butterfly lights besides us like a sunbeam. And for a brief moment it’s glory and beauty belongs to the world.  But then it flies once again, and though we wish it could have stayed, we feel so lucky to have seen it.

I lost a good friend nine days ago.  The shock and dismay was far worse than any I’ve suffered before.  I’ve lost quite a few relatives and friends in my life and a couple of them were really rough passages for me.  Only losing one of my children could be worse.  Ironic that I had just written about friends here on this blog 12 days before.  I told another friend that, with this latest loss, I thought myself a better person.  It had taught me a big, big lesson, but I’ve since struggled with changing my mind.  I sometimes wish I could go back to being the other Rick, with my friend still here, my emotions in-check, forget the lesson!  What sustains me in times like these is my unshakable faith that death is but a comma in the continuum of life, ie. life exists beyond the grave.  I’m thankful, better yet, so very grateful for it.

Our beliefs about death are nearly as varied as any subject can be. Jehovah Witnesses to Catholics to Mormons to Atheists, and all those between, have their particular — some would say — peculiar views on death and dying from the doctrine of the immortality of the soul to the belief in reincarnation.  Some say the human soul ceases to exist when we die, others say it lives on, that it has always existed and will remain forever.  Books have been written that tell of amazing stories beyond the veil and there is strong evidence that there indeed is something to be found in the near-death experiences of numberless people.  From diverse cultures, ages and walks of life those who have experienced it say their views on the world are profoundly altered as a result.

Most of us would like to die at home, in peace and cared for by a loving family, but for many the hard fact is they die in the sterile confines of a hospital.  Some are isolated and in pain often tethered to an array of tubes and machines.  Millions more die anonymously—the nameless, faceless throw-aways of genocide, famine, disease, war or abject poverty.  Death will gather its victims by taking hundreds, even thousands in a matter of minutes.  Whether we live to be a hundred or just a few years old the last enemy can strike us the next time we cross a street or while we sleep.  It’s arrival is varied and can be a slow process that takes months, sometimes years of suffering.  It can come unexpectedly as a thief in the night snuffing out a friend, a loved one in a matter of seconds.  No matter the circumstances it can rip into the hearts of those of us left behind.  It can shake our foundation, propelling us into the depths of despair and challenge our very will-to-live.

Even so, death fascinates people. Nothing seems to sell more newspapers or bring more people to their televisions than reports of people dying, particularly when large numbers of us are taken in horrifying circumstances.  Show us the pictures!  I’m reminded of the 1982 Don Henley song Dirty Laundry.

“We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who comes on at five
She can tell you ’bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye
It’s interesting when people die

People can’t seem to get enough of death and dying, whether it comes by war, natural disaster, crime, or disease.  Raw emotions erupt when public figures and celebrities pass on.  It is undeniable. people have and will remain fascinated by death — at least the death of others.  When faced with their own however, they cringe.  Our own demise is the one subject that most of us cannot bear to think about.

One thing is certain … life as we know it is not only brief — as it passes us by so quickly — death is inevitable and none of us will escape it.

No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted.  It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility.  All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire… ~~ Orson F. Whitney

The Nick of Time Foundation

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12 comments on “A Few Thoughts on Death and Dying

  1. oldereyes says:

    Rick, I’m very sorry about the loss of your friend. I have lost a good friend, my father and my sister-in-law in the last five years. I was very close with my sister-in-law and especially miss her. She was one of the people in my life who “got” my creative side. Each of those passings changed me in some way. One of the ways is that I value every moment. On the gratitude list I write most mornings, the first item is Another Day in God’s World. I’ve come to believe that we go on after death but I don’t have a conception of what that’s like. In the Kaballah, there are two ways to die, like cotton pulled from a bramble bush or like cotton pulled from creme. I hope that I can let go easily.

  2. So true, your words, about dealing with the shock of a very close friend.

    What I find somewhat coincidental is a program I watched tonight on the ABC network where the reporter interviewed several different people -all who have had a “near-death” experience. Watching, listening to each one’s story so many things were almost identical that they described and I found it quite fascinating to watch….

    Right now, as long as I am still above ground, still able to get out and around and about, still usually remember my own name and what day of the month it is, etc., I’m happy and gonna enjoy whatever life brings my way. Having so far now survived two go-rounds with cancer, I’m not going to worry my pea brain about the end -just have faith that I will someday be reunited with many, many people I loved dearly (still do for that matter) and in that respect, I guess you could say I do, in a sense, then look forward to the end then, don’t I?

  3. Sorry for your loss, its so hard but it will get better with time.

  4. Mary B McCartt says:

    Losing anyone is sad. But it makes us appreciate the gift of life so much more. Every day is a joy to me in spite of the losses I have endured….

    As for something beyond death. My Grandmother, Belle Hile, came to me in my early twenties when I was ill and told me this, “It’s not your time yet. Go back.” She was joined by a group of people whose faces I could not see but I instinctively knew they were my family and that they loved me. A bright light was shining behind them and my Grandmother was the only one to step forward and speak. Yes, she spoke without moving her lips. Immediately I was back in my bedroom, frightened yet forlorn because I wanted to see her again.

    It was over ten years before I told anyone about it because at the time near death experiences were not common knowledge. Now I know that I will see her and the others again. There is nothing to be afraid of.

    So keep in mind, Rick that while you miss your friend, he is with those that love him and you will see him again.

  5. LeRoy William Bloom says:

    Atheists are those people on the far end of the spectrum. For us, or at least me, I go with the idea that matter never disappears, it just changes form. So when we die we are just so many chemicals going back into nature from whence we came. While the mind occupies space in the brain, once the brain stops functioning, the mind goes away. I’ve seen brains but I have never seen a soul so I have no proof of the soul’s existence.

    Just another point of view.

  6. Mary Jo Hoak says:

    Hi Rick,

    Sorry to hear about your friend, but, death and dying is something I avoid thinking about as I feel I still haven’t lived my life, and who knows if I ever will!! Seems that “life” keeps getting in the way!! (usually someone else’s)

    Anyway, sorry for your loss …

    Your “cousin”

    Mary Jo
    Rio Rancho, NM

    • Rick Gleason says:

      Not a bad policy Mary Jo.

      It does seem however that our mutual interest in Family History does bring one closer to it’s reality, as we come to know the many who have come and gone before us.

      Thanks for your comment and for stopping by!

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