If and why we Fear Death

The reason many people give for their fear of death is fear of the unknown. That makes sense but think of all the times we don’t know what will happen or how something will turn out. We take risks every day. When you get on an airplane, you don’t know if it will land safely or crash.

Another element of fear of death, is the lack of control. We all like to think we control our lives and the many different parts of our lives. Again fear of flying is in part due to the lack of control. If we were in the cockpit, we’d feel safer. Assuming we know how to fly a 747!

We think of death as being final. And it is in a way. We no longer live on earth. We are lost to our families and friends. Life as we know it ends. But, life begins. A new life without suffering, without wars or poverty or hunger a life in Heaven. Or what we think of as Heaven. We are limited by a narrow definition of what any place looks like. So we have created a place that is our image of perfection.

Whatever heaven looks like or is like, we are assured that we will be in the presence of God. That gives me chills. Imagine seeing God face to face. It’s beyond human understanding.

With heaven to look forward to doesn’t mean I want to die or that all of the fear is removed from the idea of death. It’s the when and the how that concern me. I’ve had cancer and survived. I have a multitude of medical problems. Who knows what will be next?

I have two friends who are dying. One has brain cancer and has maybe two years to live. She may have more but she’s planning on two. She has chemo once a month which results in a week of fatigue and an unpredictable stomach. The rest of the time she is busy doing things she wants to finish before she leaves. Cookbooks for her sons as well as scrapbooks for each of them. She spends more time with her husband and visits friends with greater frequency.

My other friend has ALS better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.This horrible illness is moving quickly and she is less and less able to do even every day things. Talking and eating are difficult because the muscles in her neck are weakening. As she said, “A horrible disease is killing me.” That says it all. She loses ground each day. She gets closer and closer to death. She knows the how and has an idea of when. That knowledge doesn’t give her any comfort. She’s not afraid of dying but she abhors the way she is dying.

Then there’s my mother who at 88 years old is in perfect health. Her only affliction is old age. She says she wants to live until her 90th birthday and then she’ll be done. She says that but I know she is terrified of death. Why? I don’t really know but I did read somewhere that those who fear death are those who have not lived. My mother has always been terrified of life.

In one of those mass forward e-mails came a nugget of gold among the chaff.

A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, “Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side.” Very quietly the doctor said, “I don’t know.” “You don’t know? You, a Christian man do not know what is on the other side?”

The doctor was holding the handle of the door; on the other side came a sound of scratching and whining, and as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness. Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog? He’s never been in this room before. He didn’t know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened, he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing. I know my Master is there and that is enough.”