Here are a few interesting quotes about death and some thoughts about it:
“To know you’re going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time. That’s better. That way you can actually be more involved in your life while you’re living.” Mitch Albom, Tuesdays With Morrie.
The hour which gives us life begins to take it away. Seneca, Hercules Furens.
It hath been often said, that it is not death, but dying, which is terrible. Henry Fielding. Amelia.
A man’s dying is more the survivor’s affair than his own. Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain.
Man always try to make virtues of their weaknesses. Fear of death and fear of life both become piety. H.L. Mencken, Minority Report: H.L. Mencken’s Notebooks.
Man is the only animal that contemplates death, and also the only animal that shows any sign of doubt of its finality. William Ernst Hocking, The Meaning of Immortality in Human Experience.
All men think all men are mortal but themselves. Edward Young, Night Thoughts on Life, Death and Immortality.
“If a man has learned to think, no matter what he may think about, he is always thinking of his own death. All philosophers were like that. And what truth can there be, if there is death?” William Barrett, Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy.
“Americans think that death is optional.” Jane Walmsley, Brit-Think, Ameri-Think.
“A man’s dying is more the survivor’s affair than his own.” Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain.
“Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily.” Francois de la Rochefoucauld, Maxims.
“Our own death is indeed quite unimaginable, and whenever we make an attempt to imagine it we can perceive that we really survive as spectators….[A]t bottom no one believes in his own death….in the subconscious everyone of us is convinced of his own immortality.” Sigmund Freud, Thought for the Times on War and Death.
2016 was the most significant year for death for me personally. I lost both of my parents, my uncle, my father-in-law and a cousin last year. It seemed like we were going to yet another funeral. At 56, I certainly realized that I had been blessed to have had my parents for such a long time. Yet I still wasn’t ready to say goodbye just yet.
Nevertheless, I was forced to confront death. Inevitably, my thoughts turned to my own mortality. Am I ready to die? I know intellectually that I’m going to die and that I’m not guaranteed even one more minute. But am I ready for it? The only honest answer is no. Are the above quotes about us believing ourselves to be immortal true? Surely not, but possibly so.
For me, the Henry Fielding quote about the fact that it is dying, not death, that is so repulsive and fearful is absolutely true. I don’t think of death often, but I do find that I think often about how I am going to die. Will it be a quick and pain-free death, as in simply not waking up some morning (which would be my preference)? Or will it be a long and drawn out affair that involves a lengthy and debilitating illness (my biggest fear)? I simply don’t know, and that’s perhaps the worst part. I just don’t know and can’t do a damn thing about that.
So, where does this leave me? The only solution that I can see is to stop focusing on death and dying so much and redirect my attention to living. I can control how I live; I have absolutely no control over the time and manner of death. If I can’t control it, why worry about it?