Death frightens me. At least I think it does. But why? What is it about the only thing in life that is certain, that scares us?
I’m 32 and a mother of 2. My parents are alive, as are my husband’s. However, my great grandparents and my grandparents are all dead. Each time someone else dies in my family I have a moment, it doesn’t last very long but a brief moment, when everything feels futile. A moment when I wonder why? What are we doing here? In that second everything seems so fragile. Everyone I’ve loved, everything I’ve worked for, will disappear in death. Are we really all just existing… breathing in and out?
It’s a stark thought and one that if I allowed myself to dwell on it too long would make me very sad. Thankfully though, I have a lot of love in my life and this is how I begin to answer some of my questions. This feeling of futility eases when I think of my parents, my husband, my children and my friends. This sounds particularly cheesy, but all this love is what will allow me and others to live on, long after we have died.
For example, I have nothing but GREAT memories of my childhood and what I’ve come to learn is that yes the memories are just that: memories, they don’t change anything and are irrelevant to others, they die with the mind they lived in. But that mind… my mind and those memories… made me the woman I am; and are helping to form the woman my daughter will become and the man my son will be. It’s hard to imagine my children as adults, they are currently 3 and 1 but it’s obvious that what I do, what I tell them, how I react to a situation and my beliefs are moulding them. All of these things that feel like the present to me, will be memories, to them. This is their childhood. Does this mean that death is not the end because we live on in the minds of others? If not in their minds – in their behaviour?
If that is true, (and it is a comforting thought that a person is able to leave some sort of legacy – be it good or bad – through the memories of others and their influence) does this mean that we only die once everyone who knew us is dead? Physically, we are gone once we’re burned or in the ground – but my Nana and my Grandad are still in my mind. Not in a spiritual way, they don’t have what you might call a ‘presence’, but they definitely exist somewhere within me. So, although they’re gone – the memory of them lives in me.
I feel I should point out that I have deliberately left religion out of this discussion. In my opinion, it muddies the water. It doesn’t help me come to any better conclusion as to why death frightens me. I respect people who have a faith – but for me death and what it means is about my family and friends and not any form of higher spiritual force.
So to come back to my original question – is it frightening? Should we fear death? Is it the moment of death that actually frightens people?
I have discovered, that personally, it is something else. A lack of control perhaps mixed with a fear of what my children and family won’t have. My children without a mother, my husband without a wife, my parents without a daughter and my friends living without the girl that ‘brings the party’!! I fear who will or won’t be there to comfort them, and I hate the thought that in death, I create sadness. I fear what I will miss if I go first. I fear the heartache of having someone taken from me. Those are my fears. Nothing to do with the moment that is death. In fact, at that moment there’s really nothing else… is there?