Let's talk about dying
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21-06-2014, 06:12 PM
Let's talk about dying
I recently watched the movie "The Fault in our Stars", which is about a young girl with terminal cancer who falls in love. I don't think this spoils too much, but nevertheless spoiler alert:
People die in this movie

It's a heart wrenching film because we don't like bad things to happen to young people who are in love, but moreover is its actually one of the few examples of both an honest and authentic movie about death. This got me thinking about a topic that has weighed on me for a while; in our society we don't spend nearly enough time talking about the end.

The United States in particular and many western countries are anti-aging and anti-death to begin with. It is the American attitude to pretend that everything will be alright and that we are all going to basically live forever and never grow old. In our books, movies, television shows, ect. it is rare that characters of consequence die, and very common that miraculous miracles occur and people are saved from the brink of death. This makes for a generally more cheerful experience than reality which is why we keep recycling this same cliches and plot pieces. It does, however, leave a huge void in our ethos. In western societies we very seldomly discuss death, and almost never consider the position of people who are slowly dieing. In our media we don't shy away from killing, violence, love, heartbreak, achievement, or even failure, but we are absolutely phobic of death; in particular slow and inevitable death. There is a certain irony in that because all of us WILL die, and most of us will die rather slowly. If there is anything in life we need to know a lot about, and should mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves for, it is the inevitable end of our life.

If you consider death from a philosophical position with atheistic assumptions, one might very well conclude that the purpose of living is to die. Every living thing in all the history of life (that we know of anyway, but it's a reasonable assumption) has died. Everything that is alive today will die. One day the sun will grow so large that it will swallow the earth, and then life as we know it will almost certainly end. If there is life on other planets somewhere in the universe, then that life is probably dying as well. If you consider the inevitable end of our own universe in "heat death" it seems clear that all things that can reasonably be called alive will one day come to an end. If there is anything about life that could be called purposeful, it would be death. It is as important and natural a part of living as being born, indeed one necessarily follows from the other. Yet we spend so little time consciously, thoughtfully, purposefully thinking about death.

Very recently my grandfather passed away. He was a hard man to know very well my grandfather, and his health was very poor for a long time so it came as no surprise. I am a little ashamed to admit that his passing was not particularly hard on me. It was very hard on my father, however. My grandfather died of an infection, and he spent much of his finals days incoherent and unconscious. If you have never been around a person on deaths door step it is difficult to describe. People who are terminally ill tend to lay with their head uncomfortably far up, and their mouth out. They often make low moaning and throat noises. Often their eyes will be in the back of their head, or rolling around in their sockets. In the case of my grandfather, he was fighting an infection so his body was rigid and shivering. His skin was cold and very pale. In places it was colored yellow or bruised unnatural shades of blue. Dying of an illness is probably the ugliest and least dignifying way to die, and, like most people who pass away, this how my grandfather met his end. Suffice to say that is extremely jarring to see someone you love on deaths doorstep.

It quite literally scared the shit out of my father, seeing my grandfather in that condition. He made it clear to me, my brothers, and his wife, that if he was ever sick in the same that he wanted to end his own life. I found it surprising at the time that my father was so rattled by the experience, and it became clear to me that this man who was almost fifty years old had never had a real experience with death before. He had gone well over half his life without really realizing what the end really looked like.

At this point I want to recommend a very difficult to watch, but very well done documentary called "The End". It is about six people who are facing terminal diseases in hospice care. It is a completely and brutally honest glimpse into the end of life. Something I think everyone needs experience, at least once, before they experience it for themselves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_Q_6AKLK_Q

I learned a few simple truths watching this documentary. The first is that nobody is ever really ready to die. I have personally been terrified at the thought of death since I was eleven years old. I have lost a lot of sleep thinking about the end, and as an atheist I never had the comfort of believing in an afterlife or in a god; I always knew that there was no conscious existence waiting for me on the other side. My father told me on many occasions before my grandfather passed away that he was not afraid to die. I don't think that is true anymore. We are all afraid of the end, and I don't think it is really possible to have both a zeal for living and to have true peace and acceptance with your own death. For my own part I have an recently developed an uneasy acceptance of the end, but I think it is likely that the thought of dying will scare me for the rest of my life.

Another simple truth is that nobody ever dies with dignity. In the documentary I linked above they followed the last hours of a man dying of lung cancer. In the beginning of his segment he was a fairly husky, typical looking midwestern white man in his late sixties. On his last night alive he was skin and bones with a full beard, being lowered into a special bed in a giant adult diaper. He spent his last hours fighting for a full breath while his son, clearly unable to emotionally and mentally process what was going on, made lame jokes at his expense.

This leads me to another simple truth, which I witnessed in this film and with my grandfather - death is ugly and death is painful. We like to imagine ourselves and our love ones simply falling asleep and never waking up, liking dozing as if for a nap or going under like in a surgery. This is not the case for most people. For most people dieing is extremely unpleasant. The last experience of my life might very well be the worst experience I will ever have. The thought of slowly suffocating to death terrifies me probably more than anything. What I didn't realize until recently is that many people don't die from organ failure, at least that is not the last thing that causes their death. Often the lungs will fill with fluids and the final thing that ends your their life is that they can't breath. Assuming I live long enough to die of an illness, this will very likely happen to me. It certainly will happen to most of us.

This is what I have been thinking about this most, in regards to thinking about death, recently. I am less plagued by the concept of an eternal nothingness, but instead find myself contemplating the last minutes, hours, days, months and years of life. I have developed a tremendous amount of sympathy for elderly people. In our culture we don't spend any time considering what it must be like to live long enough to know your death will be coming very soon. Many people, indeed somewhere close to half of all people, will outlive their life partner. We all essentially die alone, but many of us take comfort in knowing that our last days will not be spent alone. Many people do spent their last days, essentially, alone. I know that if I outlive my life partner I will have nothing to look forward to except for my own fast approaching death. I know that I will be marginalized and largely ignored because I am a burden and uncomfortable to think about. I know that my mind will be slow, and that I will probably spend some time needing help from nurses and family members to do basic things like use the toilet. I know that I will probably feel embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated and in pain, and I know that even then, in the middle of all that loneliness all that discomfort that is the last days of my life, that even then I will still be terrified to die.

As bitterly depressing as this thread is, I don't mean to imply that life is shitty or that even that there is nothing good or meaningful for the individual in the process of dying. Personally I have never been able to force myself not to think about unpleasant truths. Death and the process of dying are unpleasant, but they are inevitable. I think personally think that death needs to be talked about, all the time, and to people at all stages of their life. It shouldn't be something that you learn all about at your end. I don't think you can ever truly prepare yourself for death but I do think you it can be made a little easier if you know what to expect. I think many people are in denial about death. This is not only harmful for themselves, it is harmful for other people. We spend our lives avoiding everything that reminds us of these inevitable truths. Often dieing people must shoulder the emotionally burden of dieing without sympathy and without preparation. We use medicine to numb pain, and we need to use support and education to help curb loneliness and fear. I think it should be very difficult for fifty year old men to go their who life with no concept of death. What do you think?
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21-06-2014, 06:36 PM
RE: Let's talk about dying
My dad died five years ago. The five years prior to that consisted of him deteriorating physically, not helped by a near fatal auto accident in the midst of it all. A quick rundown - bladder cancer, mini strokes, big stroke that put him down bigtime. He had to learn to walk again but by then all the stuff combined resulted in lymphedema that meant his left arm didn't recover through therapy. This followed rapidly by a dumb, stubborn decision on his part to drive...he ran into a very old, large tree and nearly killed himself. Crushed pelvis and hip and more damage to the arm. It just got worse and worse. All the other things meant that the cancer treatments were halted...you couldn't ask for a worse recipe for disaster. He kept his head up and kept plugging away till after the accident...the cancer too advanced and all the other damage to his body. He could not stand the idea of never being able to do anything on his own again. He wanted to die, he said as much to all of us.

We kids know that he was helped along in his wish by a friend and we are okay with that. It was a sobering and emotional time for us. I cannot even imagine what all was going on in his head. He fought and fought and one dumb decision did him in. His last years were pretty bad.

Six months later I was diagnosed with breast cancer...are you fucking kidding me? So then I got to stare down the barrel of that gun. I decided to go a rather radical route having both breasts removed and passing on chemo and radiation. After watching dad, I wasn't going to spend my last three years on earth sick and weak and miserable. I'm at 4-1/2 years now...off to oncology for tests on Wednesday, hopefully for the last time. If the tests are bad and the cancer is somewhere else, I won't do anything about it other than make preparations. I don't want to spend the end of my life like my dad did. I have given it a lot of thought because I have had to. Death doesn't really scare me like it did before dad died and my diagnosis.

I will be 57 next Saturday and already kind of feel like I have been living on borrowed time. My kids are raised, I got the degree I always wanted...if the end is near, I am okay with that. If I have a few more years of a decently healthy life, I am good with that too.

See here they are the bruises some were self-inflicted and some showed up along the way. - JF
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21-06-2014, 06:55 PM
RE: Let's talk about dying
(21-06-2014 06:12 PM)Michael_Tadlock Wrote:  ...
in our society we don't spend nearly enough time talking about the end.
...

Yabut, I don't want to talk about it. Angry
Tongue


(21-06-2014 06:12 PM)Michael_Tadlock Wrote:  ...
nobody is ever really ready to die.
...

Actually, not true.
Some people accept it as inevitable and are very practical about it.
Some people are actually looking forward to it.

Sample size = 1.

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21-06-2014, 07:09 PM
RE: Let's talk about dying
(21-06-2014 06:12 PM)Michael_Tadlock Wrote:  I recently watched the movie "The Fault in our Stars", which is about a young girl with terminal cancer who falls in love. I don't think this spoils too much, but nevertheless spoiler alert:
People die in this movie

It's a heart wrenching film because we don't like bad things to happen to young people who are in love, but moreover is its actually one of the few examples of both an honest and authentic movie about death. This got me thinking about a topic that has weighed on me for a while; in our society we don't spend nearly enough time talking about the end.

The United States in particular and many western countries are anti-aging and anti-death to begin with. It is the American attitude to pretend that everything will be alright and that we are all going to basically live forever and never grow old. In our books, movies, television shows, ect. it is rare that characters of consequence die, and very common that miraculous miracles occur and people are saved from the brink of death. This makes for a generally more cheerful experience than reality which is why we keep recycling this same cliches and plot pieces. It does, however, leave a huge void in our ethos. In western societies we very seldomly discuss death, and almost never consider the position of people who are slowly dieing. In our media we don't shy away from killing, violence, love, heartbreak, achievement, or even failure, but we are absolutely phobic of death; in particular slow and inevitable death. There is a certain irony in that because all of us WILL die, and most of us will die rather slowly. If there is anything in life we need to know a lot about, and should mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves for, it is the inevitable end of our life.

If you consider death from a philosophical position with atheistic assumptions, one might very well conclude that the purpose of living is to die. Every living thing in all the history of life (that we know of anyway, but it's a reasonable assumption) has died. Everything that is alive today will die. One day the sun will grow so large that it will swallow the earth, and then life as we know it will almost certainly end. If there is life on other planets somewhere in the universe, then that life is probably dying as well. If you consider the inevitable end of our own universe in "heat death" it seems clear that all things that can reasonably be called alive will one day come to an end. If there is anything about life that could be called purposeful, it would be death. It is as important and natural a part of living as being born, indeed one necessarily follows from the other. Yet we spend so little time consciously, thoughtfully, purposefully thinking about death.

Very recently my grandfather passed away. He was a hard man to know very well my grandfather, and his health was very poor for a long time so it came as no surprise. I am a little ashamed to admit that his passing was not particularly hard on me. It was very hard on my father, however. My grandfather died of an infection, and he spent much of his finals days incoherent and unconscious. If you have never been around a person on deaths door step it is difficult to describe. People who are terminally ill tend to lay with their head uncomfortably far up, and their mouth out. They often make low moaning and throat noises. Often their eyes will be in the back of their head, or rolling around in their sockets. In the case of my grandfather, he was fighting an infection so his body was rigid and shivering. His skin was cold and very pale. In places it was colored yellow or bruised unnatural shades of blue. Dying of an illness is probably the ugliest and least dignifying way to die, and, like most people who pass away, this how my grandfather met his end. Suffice to say that is extremely jarring to see someone you love on deaths doorstep.

It quite literally scared the shit out of my father, seeing my grandfather in that condition. He made it clear to me, my brothers, and his wife, that if he was ever sick in the same that he wanted to end his own life. I found it surprising at the time that my father was so rattled by the experience, and it became clear to me that this man who was almost fifty years old had never had a real experience with death before. He had gone well over half his life without really realizing what the end really looked like.

At this point I want to recommend a very difficult to watch, but very well done documentary called "The End". It is about six people who are facing terminal diseases in hospice care. It is a completely and brutally honest glimpse into the end of life. Something I think everyone needs experience, at least once, before they experience it for themselves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_Q_6AKLK_Q

I learned a few simple truths watching this documentary. The first is that nobody is ever really ready to die. I have personally been terrified at the thought of death since I was eleven years old. I have lost a lot of sleep thinking about the end, and as an atheist I never had the comfort of believing in an afterlife or in a god; I always knew that there was no conscious existence waiting for me on the other side. My father told me on many occasions before my grandfather passed away that he was not afraid to die. I don't think that is true anymore. We are all afraid of the end, and I don't think it is really possible to have both a zeal for living and to have true peace and acceptance with your own death. For my own part I have an recently developed an uneasy acceptance of the end, but I think it is likely that the thought of dying will scare me for the rest of my life.

Another simple truth is that nobody ever dies with dignity. In the documentary I linked above they followed the last hours of a man dying of lung cancer. In the beginning of his segment he was a fairly husky, typical looking midwestern white man in his late sixties. On his last night alive he was skin and bones with a full beard, being lowered into a special bed in a giant adult diaper. He spent his last hours fighting for a full breath while his son, clearly unable to emotionally and mentally process what was going on, made lame jokes at his expense.

This leads me to another simple truth, which I witnessed in this film and with my grandfather - death is ugly and death is painful. We like to imagine ourselves and our love ones simply falling asleep and never waking up, liking dozing as if for a nap or going under like in a surgery. This is not the case for most people. For most people dieing is extremely unpleasant. The last experience of my life might very well be the worst experience I will ever have. The thought of slowly suffocating to death terrifies me probably more than anything. What I didn't realize until recently is that many people don't die from organ failure, at least that is not the last thing that causes their death. Often the lungs will fill with fluids and the final thing that ends your their life is that they can't breath. Assuming I live long enough to die of an illness, this will very likely happen to me. It certainly will happen to most of us.

This is what I have been thinking about this most, in regards to thinking about death, recently. I am less plagued by the concept of an eternal nothingness, but instead find myself contemplating the last minutes, hours, days, months and years of life. I have developed a tremendous amount of sympathy for elderly people. In our culture we don't spend any time considering what it must be like to live long enough to know your death will be coming very soon. Many people, indeed somewhere close to half of all people, will outlive their life partner. We all essentially die alone, but many of us take comfort in knowing that our last days will not be spent alone. Many people do spent their last days, essentially, alone. I know that if I outlive my life partner I will have nothing to look forward to except for my own fast approaching death. I know that I will be marginalized and largely ignored because I am a burden and uncomfortable to think about. I know that my mind will be slow, and that I will probably spend some time needing help from nurses and family members to do basic things like use the toilet. I know that I will probably feel embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated and in pain, and I know that even then, in the middle of all that loneliness all that discomfort that is the last days of my life, that even then I will still be terrified to die.

As bitterly depressing as this thread is, I don't mean to imply that life is shitty or that even that there is nothing good or meaningful for the individual in the process of dying. Personally I have never been able to force myself not to think about unpleasant truths. Death and the process of dying are unpleasant, but they are inevitable. I think personally think that death needs to be talked about, all the time, and to people at all stages of their life. It shouldn't be something that you learn all about at your end. I don't think you can ever truly prepare yourself for death but I do think you it can be made a little easier if you know what to expect. I think many people are in denial about death. This is not only harmful for themselves, it is harmful for other people. We spend our lives avoiding everything that reminds us of these inevitable truths. Often dieing people must shoulder the emotionally burden of dieing without sympathy and without preparation. We use medicine to numb pain, and we need to use support and education to help curb loneliness and fear. I think it should be very difficult for fifty year old men to go their who life with no concept of death. What do you think?

I have watched two people die, my mother and my husband. Both were ready to die, both died a peaceful, dignified death.

My mom died because she refused to submit to dialysis anymore. She wanted to die, she was in her 80s, the doctors would not let her die and she ended up having to ask me to help. They would not let her make this decision by herself, which is absolutely ludicrous, she had to appoint me as her legal guardian and have me make that decision. WTF was that all about? (This was in Germany). If anyone should have a say in what happens and doesn't happen to their body, it's the person themselves. Just because she was old does not mean that she can't make her own decisions about her own life. This was a very traumatic experience for me, I loved my mom, I didn't want her to die, but of course I would never have stood in her way of deciding things about her own life. The hospital staff was divided down the middle it seemed - some docs would see me in the hallways and come up to me and shake my hand and thank me, others would make no secret of the fact that they despised me. It was quite the big deal there.

Anyway, mom got her way and was so happy and grateful and she died very peacefully.

My husband had cancer and didn't want to die, but he made peace with it. He talked with me as long as he could, describing what was happening to him as I had asked him to do. He felt no pain and was on no meds. He died at home after I got him back out of the hospital as he asked. The hospital sure didn't want to let him go home, I had to fight there, too. (This was in the US) They insisted he needed antibiotics and fluids. He also didn't want hospice, not even at home. He just wanted to be comfy and peaceful and not have strangers poking at him. He didn't want his life prolonged artificially just to be poked at by strangers for another week. He also didn't want his relatives to know, the last thing he wanted is for them to go through all kinds of trouble traveling to watch him die. He also didn't want to listen to religious babble or his daughters in law sobbing. He wanted a pleasant , peaceful death. And he got it. I stood by, painkillers at hand just in case. As he told me what was happening to his body, the last thing he said was: "I am going to step outside now" and then he lost consciousness. Then he slowly went to sleep - breathing slower and slower.

Neither death was horrible. I felt horrible losing people I loved, but they were ready to go and went peacefully.

It's the damn system that fucks with them and makes them stay alive when all that means is wasting away and dying a lot slower and hence often more painful, which of course is then fixed with pain killers and a large hospital bill results. The dying are exploited horribly, and so are their relatives.

And it's the damn relatives who often insist people be kept alive well beyond a natural death. I get it, I grieved horribly when my husband died. It's been over two years now and I miss him on a daily basis still. Keeping him alive for a few more days in undignified circumstances would not have helped the matter at all, it would have made his death miserable and my grief worse.

Under no circumstances will I ever even enter the system when my time comes. When my body starts to seriously wear out, I am heading for the exit on my own terms.

No, I am not the least bit scared of death. Fear is for the living, not the dead. Grief is for the living. Pain is for the living. I go to sleep every night, and then I am not conscious and I don't see how death is any different. You just don't wake up. Who wants to wake up to a decrepit body with no prospects? With people poking at you, meds with unpleasant side effects being pumped into you? People too scared to talk to you or sobbing? Freaking religious rites being performed when you are too weak to resist? Not me. I'd rather stay asleep.

Death is my friend, not my enemy.

[Image: dobie.png]Science is the process we've designed to be responsible for generating our best guess as to what the fuck is going on. Girly Man
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21-06-2014, 07:51 PM
RE: Let's talk about dying
My ex father-in-law passed today from brain cancer. Oddly, his wife died of the exact same tumor, 5 years earlier. I am not sad about him, for personal reasons, that I will keep to myself.

The one thing I noticed was that this type of tumor was aggressive and fast. By the time symptoms showed up, both only lived a couple months longer. And, at the end, they both slipped into a coma, then quietly crossed over. Not a bad way to go, in my opinion.

I've worked in a nursing home and a hospital - specifically their hospice unit. I have watched some patients die quietly, and others suffer. So I've seen death & dying from all angles. It can indeed be ugly, but can also be surprisingly calm & quiet.

I guess for me, it's the not knowing how I will die. I'm not at all afraid of what's after death, but like most of us, I do not want to suffer. I've been dealt quite a few hard blows in my life, and have suffered enough....so when the time comes, I will absolutely take matters in my own hands, if necessary.

It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled. ~Mark Twain
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21-06-2014, 08:47 PM
RE: Let's talk about dying
(21-06-2014 06:12 PM)Michael_Tadlock Wrote:  If you consider death from a philosophical position with atheistic assumptions, one might very well conclude that the purpose of living is to die. Every living thing in all the history of life (that we know of anyway, but it's a reasonable assumption) has died. Everything that is alive today will die. One day the sun will grow so large that it will swallow the earth, and then life as we know it will almost certainly end. If there is life on other planets somewhere in the universe, then that life is probably dying as well. If you consider the inevitable end of our own universe in "heat death" it seems clear that all things that can reasonably be called alive will one day come to an end. If there is anything about life that could be called purposeful, it would be death. It is as important and natural a part of living as being born, indeed one necessarily follows from the other. Yet we spend so little time consciously, thoughtfully, purposefully thinking about death.

Indeed. But from a certain point of view, our universe itself is a net-zero-energy fluctuation of a greater manifold (the analysis on that stands at "more likely than not" at the moment). So there's that.

Two grandparents of mine passed away in the last few months; both were already in quite deteriorated states, but the actual passings were fairly sudden.

My great uncle passed away just shy of a year ago; his mind, by contrast, was sharp as a razor to the day he died. He, at least, I had a chance to say goodbye to.
(not that there's much to say besides, "I love you, I think I am fortunate to have shared these years with you, and I will honour you as a part of me so long as I am able", really)

But you know what they say;
“Death is nothing to us, since when we are, death has not come, and when death has come, we are not”

... this is my signature!
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22-06-2014, 08:02 AM
RE: Let's talk about dying
I think Life is very overrated and is a pathetic Imagery for those who are wishful ,we don't live we are not living but just dying, we die every day just a bit . if anything life is just finding the longest day to death or slowest way to die the only thing that lives is what we create while we're dying for others after us who got a chance to die ,it's like the conclusion of "life". I just wish I die as I'm doing my ordinary activities .

While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.
Leonardo da Vinci

Death may be the greatest of all human blessings
Socrates

The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.
Mark Twain

"Dare to think!"
-Kant
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22-06-2014, 08:13 AM
RE: Let's talk about dying
(21-06-2014 07:09 PM)Dom Wrote:  
(21-06-2014 06:12 PM)Michael_Tadlock Wrote:  I recently watched the movie "The Fault in our Stars", which is about a young girl with terminal cancer who falls in love. I don't think this spoils too much, but nevertheless spoiler alert:
People die in this movie

It's a heart wrenching film because we don't like bad things to happen to young people who are in love, but moreover is its actually one of the few examples of both an honest and authentic movie about death. This got me thinking about a topic that has weighed on me for a while; in our society we don't spend nearly enough time talking about the end.

The United States in particular and many western countries are anti-aging and anti-death to begin with. It is the American attitude to pretend that everything will be alright and that we are all going to basically live forever and never grow old. In our books, movies, television shows, ect. it is rare that characters of consequence die, and very common that miraculous miracles occur and people are saved from the brink of death. This makes for a generally more cheerful experience than reality which is why we keep recycling this same cliches and plot pieces. It does, however, leave a huge void in our ethos. In western societies we very seldomly discuss death, and almost never consider the position of people who are slowly dieing. In our media we don't shy away from killing, violence, love, heartbreak, achievement, or even failure, but we are absolutely phobic of death; in particular slow and inevitable death. There is a certain irony in that because all of us WILL die, and most of us will die rather slowly. If there is anything in life we need to know a lot about, and should mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves for, it is the inevitable end of our life.

If you consider death from a philosophical position with atheistic assumptions, one might very well conclude that the purpose of living is to die. Every living thing in all the history of life (that we know of anyway, but it's a reasonable assumption) has died. Everything that is alive today will die. One day the sun will grow so large that it will swallow the earth, and then life as we know it will almost certainly end. If there is life on other planets somewhere in the universe, then that life is probably dying as well. If you consider the inevitable end of our own universe in "heat death" it seems clear that all things that can reasonably be called alive will one day come to an end. If there is anything about life that could be called purposeful, it would be death. It is as important and natural a part of living as being born, indeed one necessarily follows from the other. Yet we spend so little time consciously, thoughtfully, purposefully thinking about death.

Very recently my grandfather passed away. He was a hard man to know very well my grandfather, and his health was very poor for a long time so it came as no surprise. I am a little ashamed to admit that his passing was not particularly hard on me. It was very hard on my father, however. My grandfather died of an infection, and he spent much of his finals days incoherent and unconscious. If you have never been around a person on deaths door step it is difficult to describe. People who are terminally ill tend to lay with their head uncomfortably far up, and their mouth out. They often make low moaning and throat noises. Often their eyes will be in the back of their head, or rolling around in their sockets. In the case of my grandfather, he was fighting an infection so his body was rigid and shivering. His skin was cold and very pale. In places it was colored yellow or bruised unnatural shades of blue. Dying of an illness is probably the ugliest and least dignifying way to die, and, like most people who pass away, this how my grandfather met his end. Suffice to say that is extremely jarring to see someone you love on deaths doorstep.

It quite literally scared the shit out of my father, seeing my grandfather in that condition. He made it clear to me, my brothers, and his wife, that if he was ever sick in the same that he wanted to end his own life. I found it surprising at the time that my father was so rattled by the experience, and it became clear to me that this man who was almost fifty years old had never had a real experience with death before. He had gone well over half his life without really realizing what the end really looked like.

At this point I want to recommend a very difficult to watch, but very well done documentary called "The End". It is about six people who are facing terminal diseases in hospice care. It is a completely and brutally honest glimpse into the end of life. Something I think everyone needs experience, at least once, before they experience it for themselves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_Q_6AKLK_Q

I learned a few simple truths watching this documentary. The first is that nobody is ever really ready to die. I have personally been terrified at the thought of death since I was eleven years old. I have lost a lot of sleep thinking about the end, and as an atheist I never had the comfort of believing in an afterlife or in a god; I always knew that there was no conscious existence waiting for me on the other side. My father told me on many occasions before my grandfather passed away that he was not afraid to die. I don't think that is true anymore. We are all afraid of the end, and I don't think it is really possible to have both a zeal for living and to have true peace and acceptance with your own death. For my own part I have an recently developed an uneasy acceptance of the end, but I think it is likely that the thought of dying will scare me for the rest of my life.

Another simple truth is that nobody ever dies with dignity. In the documentary I linked above they followed the last hours of a man dying of lung cancer. In the beginning of his segment he was a fairly husky, typical looking midwestern white man in his late sixties. On his last night alive he was skin and bones with a full beard, being lowered into a special bed in a giant adult diaper. He spent his last hours fighting for a full breath while his son, clearly unable to emotionally and mentally process what was going on, made lame jokes at his expense.

This leads me to another simple truth, which I witnessed in this film and with my grandfather - death is ugly and death is painful. We like to imagine ourselves and our love ones simply falling asleep and never waking up, liking dozing as if for a nap or going under like in a surgery. This is not the case for most people. For most people dieing is extremely unpleasant. The last experience of my life might very well be the worst experience I will ever have. The thought of slowly suffocating to death terrifies me probably more than anything. What I didn't realize until recently is that many people don't die from organ failure, at least that is not the last thing that causes their death. Often the lungs will fill with fluids and the final thing that ends your their life is that they can't breath. Assuming I live long enough to die of an illness, this will very likely happen to me. It certainly will happen to most of us.

This is what I have been thinking about this most, in regards to thinking about death, recently. I am less plagued by the concept of an eternal nothingness, but instead find myself contemplating the last minutes, hours, days, months and years of life. I have developed a tremendous amount of sympathy for elderly people. In our culture we don't spend any time considering what it must be like to live long enough to know your death will be coming very soon. Many people, indeed somewhere close to half of all people, will outlive their life partner. We all essentially die alone, but many of us take comfort in knowing that our last days will not be spent alone. Many people do spent their last days, essentially, alone. I know that if I outlive my life partner I will have nothing to look forward to except for my own fast approaching death. I know that I will be marginalized and largely ignored because I am a burden and uncomfortable to think about. I know that my mind will be slow, and that I will probably spend some time needing help from nurses and family members to do basic things like use the toilet. I know that I will probably feel embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated and in pain, and I know that even then, in the middle of all that loneliness all that discomfort that is the last days of my life, that even then I will still be terrified to die.

As bitterly depressing as this thread is, I don't mean to imply that life is shitty or that even that there is nothing good or meaningful for the individual in the process of dying. Personally I have never been able to force myself not to think about unpleasant truths. Death and the process of dying are unpleasant, but they are inevitable. I think personally think that death needs to be talked about, all the time, and to people at all stages of their life. It shouldn't be something that you learn all about at your end. I don't think you can ever truly prepare yourself for death but I do think you it can be made a little easier if you know what to expect. I think many people are in denial about death. This is not only harmful for themselves, it is harmful for other people. We spend our lives avoiding everything that reminds us of these inevitable truths. Often dieing people must shoulder the emotionally burden of dieing without sympathy and without preparation. We use medicine to numb pain, and we need to use support and education to help curb loneliness and fear. I think it should be very difficult for fifty year old men to go their who life with no concept of death. What do you think?

I have watched two people die, my mother and my husband. Both were ready to die, both died a peaceful, dignified death.

My mom died because she refused to submit to dialysis anymore. She wanted to die, she was in her 80s, the doctors would not let her die and she ended up having to ask me to help. They would not let her make this decision by herself, which is absolutely ludicrous, she had to appoint me as her legal guardian and have me make that decision. WTF was that all about? (This was in Germany). If anyone should have a say in what happens and doesn't happen to their body, it's the person themselves. Just because she was old does not mean that she can't make her own decisions about her own life. This was a very traumatic experience for me, I loved my mom, I didn't want her to die, but of course I would never have stood in her way of deciding things about her own life. The hospital staff was divided down the middle it seemed - some docs would see me in the hallways and come up to me and shake my hand and thank me, others would make no secret of the fact that they despised me. It was quite the big deal there.

Anyway, mom got her way and was so happy and grateful and she died very peacefully.

My husband had cancer and didn't want to die, but he made peace with it. He talked with me as long as he could, describing what was happening to him as I had asked him to do. He felt no pain and was on no meds. He died at home after I got him back out of the hospital as he asked. The hospital sure didn't want to let him go home, I had to fight there, too. (This was in the US) They insisted he needed antibiotics and fluids. He also didn't want hospice, not even at home. He just wanted to be comfy and peaceful and not have strangers poking at him. He didn't want his life prolonged artificially just to be poked at by strangers for another week. He also didn't want his relatives to know, the last thing he wanted is for them to go through all kinds of trouble traveling to watch him die. He also didn't want to listen to religious babble or his daughters in law sobbing. He wanted a pleasant , peaceful death. And he got it. I stood by, painkillers at hand just in case. As he told me what was happening to his body, the last thing he said was: "I am going to step outside now" and then he lost consciousness. Then he slowly went to sleep - breathing slower and slower.

Neither death was horrible. I felt horrible losing people I loved, but they were ready to go and went peacefully.

It's the damn system that fucks with them and makes them stay alive when all that means is wasting away and dying a lot slower and hence often more painful, which of course is then fixed with pain killers and a large hospital bill results. The dying are exploited horribly, and so are their relatives.

And it's the damn relatives who often insist people be kept alive well beyond a natural death. I get it, I grieved horribly when my husband died. It's been over two years now and I miss him on a daily basis still. Keeping him alive for a few more days in undignified circumstances would not have helped the matter at all, it would have made his death miserable and my grief worse.

Under no circumstances will I ever even enter the system when my time comes. When my body starts to seriously wear out, I am heading for the exit on my own terms.

No, I am not the least bit scared of death. Fear is for the living, not the dead. Grief is for the living. Pain is for the living. I go to sleep every night, and then I am not conscious and I don't see how death is any different. You just don't wake up. Who wants to wake up to a decrepit body with no prospects? With people poking at you, meds with unpleasant side effects being pumped into you? People too scared to talk to you or sobbing? Freaking religious rites being performed when you are too weak to resist? Not me. I'd rather stay asleep.

Death is my friend, not my enemy.

You are one awesome lady.

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein God has a plan for us. Please stop screwing it up with your prayers.
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22-06-2014, 09:41 AM
RE: Let's talk about dying
(21-06-2014 06:12 PM)Michael_Tadlock Wrote:  I recently watched the movie "The Fault in our Stars", which is about a young girl with terminal cancer who falls in love. I don't think this spoils too much, but nevertheless spoiler alert:
People die in this movie

It's a heart wrenching film because we don't like bad things to happen to young people who are in love, but moreover is its actually one of the few examples of both an honest and authentic movie about death. This got me thinking about a topic that has weighed on me for a while; in our society we don't spend nearly enough time talking about the end.

The United States in particular and many western countries are anti-aging and anti-death to begin with. It is the American attitude to pretend that everything will be alright and that we are all going to basically live forever and never grow old. In our books, movies, television shows, ect. it is rare that characters of consequence die, and very common that miraculous miracles occur and people are saved from the brink of death. This makes for a generally more cheerful experience than reality which is why we keep recycling this same cliches and plot pieces. It does, however, leave a huge void in our ethos. In western societies we very seldomly discuss death, and almost never consider the position of people who are slowly dieing. In our media we don't shy away from killing, violence, love, heartbreak, achievement, or even failure, but we are absolutely phobic of death; in particular slow and inevitable death. There is a certain irony in that because all of us WILL die, and most of us will die rather slowly. If there is anything in life we need to know a lot about, and should mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves for, it is the inevitable end of our life.

If you consider death from a philosophical position with atheistic assumptions, one might very well conclude that the purpose of living is to die. Every living thing in all the history of life (that we know of anyway, but it's a reasonable assumption) has died. Everything that is alive today will die. One day the sun will grow so large that it will swallow the earth, and then life as we know it will almost certainly end. If there is life on other planets somewhere in the universe, then that life is probably dying as well. If you consider the inevitable end of our own universe in "heat death" it seems clear that all things that can reasonably be called alive will one day come to an end. If there is anything about life that could be called purposeful, it would be death. It is as important and natural a part of living as being born, indeed one necessarily follows from the other. Yet we spend so little time consciously, thoughtfully, purposefully thinking about death.

Very recently my grandfather passed away. He was a hard man to know very well my grandfather, and his health was very poor for a long time so it came as no surprise. I am a little ashamed to admit that his passing was not particularly hard on me. It was very hard on my father, however. My grandfather died of an infection, and he spent much of his finals days incoherent and unconscious. If you have never been around a person on deaths door step it is difficult to describe. People who are terminally ill tend to lay with their head uncomfortably far up, and their mouth out. They often make low moaning and throat noises. Often their eyes will be in the back of their head, or rolling around in their sockets. In the case of my grandfather, he was fighting an infection so his body was rigid and shivering. His skin was cold and very pale. In places it was colored yellow or bruised unnatural shades of blue. Dying of an illness is probably the ugliest and least dignifying way to die, and, like most people who pass away, this how my grandfather met his end. Suffice to say that is extremely jarring to see someone you love on deaths doorstep.

It quite literally scared the shit out of my father, seeing my grandfather in that condition. He made it clear to me, my brothers, and his wife, that if he was ever sick in the same that he wanted to end his own life. I found it surprising at the time that my father was so rattled by the experience, and it became clear to me that this man who was almost fifty years old had never had a real experience with death before. He had gone well over half his life without really realizing what the end really looked like.

At this point I want to recommend a very difficult to watch, but very well done documentary called "The End". It is about six people who are facing terminal diseases in hospice care. It is a completely and brutally honest glimpse into the end of life. Something I think everyone needs experience, at least once, before they experience it for themselves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_Q_6AKLK_Q

I learned a few simple truths watching this documentary. The first is that nobody is ever really ready to die. I have personally been terrified at the thought of death since I was eleven years old. I have lost a lot of sleep thinking about the end, and as an atheist I never had the comfort of believing in an afterlife or in a god; I always knew that there was no conscious existence waiting for me on the other side. My father told me on many occasions before my grandfather passed away that he was not afraid to die. I don't think that is true anymore. We are all afraid of the end, and I don't think it is really possible to have both a zeal for living and to have true peace and acceptance with your own death. For my own part I have an recently developed an uneasy acceptance of the end, but I think it is likely that the thought of dying will scare me for the rest of my life.

Another simple truth is that nobody ever dies with dignity. In the documentary I linked above they followed the last hours of a man dying of lung cancer. In the beginning of his segment he was a fairly husky, typical looking midwestern white man in his late sixties. On his last night alive he was skin and bones with a full beard, being lowered into a special bed in a giant adult diaper. He spent his last hours fighting for a full breath while his son, clearly unable to emotionally and mentally process what was going on, made lame jokes at his expense.

This leads me to another simple truth, which I witnessed in this film and with my grandfather - death is ugly and death is painful. We like to imagine ourselves and our love ones simply falling asleep and never waking up, liking dozing as if for a nap or going under like in a surgery. This is not the case for most people. For most people dieing is extremely unpleasant. The last experience of my life might very well be the worst experience I will ever have. The thought of slowly suffocating to death terrifies me probably more than anything. What I didn't realize until recently is that many people don't die from organ failure, at least that is not the last thing that causes their death. Often the lungs will fill with fluids and the final thing that ends your their life is that they can't breath. Assuming I live long enough to die of an illness, this will very likely happen to me. It certainly will happen to most of us.

This is what I have been thinking about this most, in regards to thinking about death, recently. I am less plagued by the concept of an eternal nothingness, but instead find myself contemplating the last minutes, hours, days, months and years of life. I have developed a tremendous amount of sympathy for elderly people. In our culture we don't spend any time considering what it must be like to live long enough to know your death will be coming very soon. Many people, indeed somewhere close to half of all people, will outlive their life partner. We all essentially die alone, but many of us take comfort in knowing that our last days will not be spent alone. Many people do spent their last days, essentially, alone. I know that if I outlive my life partner I will have nothing to look forward to except for my own fast approaching death. I know that I will be marginalized and largely ignored because I am a burden and uncomfortable to think about. I know that my mind will be slow, and that I will probably spend some time needing help from nurses and family members to do basic things like use the toilet. I know that I will probably feel embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated and in pain, and I know that even then, in the middle of all that loneliness all that discomfort that is the last days of my life, that even then I will still be terrified to die.

As bitterly depressing as this thread is, I don't mean to imply that life is shitty or that even that there is nothing good or meaningful for the individual in the process of dying. Personally I have never been able to force myself not to think about unpleasant truths. Death and the process of dying are unpleasant, but they are inevitable. I think personally think that death needs to be talked about, all the time, and to people at all stages of their life. It shouldn't be something that you learn all about at your end. I don't think you can ever truly prepare yourself for death but I do think you it can be made a little easier if you know what to expect. I think many people are in denial about death. This is not only harmful for themselves, it is harmful for other people. We spend our lives avoiding everything that reminds us of these inevitable truths. Often dieing people must shoulder the emotionally burden of dieing without sympathy and without preparation. We use medicine to numb pain, and we need to use support and education to help curb loneliness and fear. I think it should be very difficult for fifty year old men to go their who life with no concept of death. What do you think?

Death... Death has always had an... interesting... relationship with me...

Obligatory life-story time!
Since my earliest rememberable days, I've been familiar with death, I was exposed to it fairly early on, I suppose as a consequence of me being surrounded to a great extent of medical interest through my medically-inclined family. I suppose this also lead to me maturing at a far greater rate than my peers as well, even today, I'm ahead of the curve.

My first experience with death will probably remain in me forever, but it was not my most powerful experience.
It was my beloved pet rabbit Thumper: I remember going out to feed him one morning before anybody else was awake and discovering him unmoving in his wire hutch; one white-furred paw turned red. I'm not sure, but I think he bled to death after a stray wire pierced his foot. I cried for days. Even at the memory, I'm not ashamed to admit tears well slowing in my eyes.

After that, I was exposed to the aftermath of death numerous times; I recall my first funeral to a small degree. A friend of my parents had died and I, to my great objection, was dragged along, as a support I suppose, though I don't recall my elder siblings being taken. My brother has always been exempt from funeral going; he doesn't handle it well, he is far too emotional and fragile a person, which still annoys me. And my sister... hell if I know.
That funeral service sparked a great interest in me; since then I've been fascinated with death and how people react to it, I remember thinking at a later funeral: "Why is everybody crying? Don't they know you can't runaway from it?"

Since then I've been frequently dragged to funerals; my beloved great aunts both died and I was taken along, each time marvelling at the adults crying over something I thought as inevitable and not worth crying over; they're so old they must have been resigned to death by now. Not the case, little me; below ten years and already death was just a curiosity to me. I don't remember crying at either funeral, or even feeling sad, despite my loving relationship with both of the coddling old ladies.

The second death I cried for was my beloved cat, Tiger. I had known her since my youngest days, and I'm sure I caused her untold annoyance, being an impudent child who didn't know his place in the family pecking order, frequently disturbing her rest or hiding. She died only a few years ago; I watched her go almost until the end. Once again, I am unashamed to admit that at the thought of her my eyes well up and my heart softens. The weeks before her death I am sure were horrible; she first contracted an eye infection which steadily grew worse; my mother neglected to do anything as she 'didn't have the money' and my father did not have access to his favourite, decades-long companion as my mother and he had split up. Eventually she didn't even have the energy to get up and and go to her tray or even eat. My mother went off with a boyfriend leaving my brother, sister and I with an old, slowly dying cat; we promptly invited my father to see her and stay for a night and he arranged for her to be put down. I was not there to watch; I refused to go, not trusting myself to maintain composed, instead I stayed home and wept silently to myself, but it wasn't at all like my reaction to my rabbit; this time I understood. I petted her body one final time once my father and sister returned with her body, which we buried later that night; I stood quite while my family said their final good-byes.

More recently still, my uncle died of bowl cancer; it was sudden; they only caught it in it's final stages and could do nothing. I'm told he died quietly in a hostel. When I received the news, my mother called my brother into my room to tell us; her eyes were bloodshot and she obviously had a hard time expressing her thoughts and trying to explain it. My brother immediately reacted; he looked down at the ground and shuffled his feet, obviously upset by the news; I just looked at my mother, waiting for more detail. This angered her. "Well? What do you have to say?!" I didn't feel anything, not that I admitted it. My uncle had certainly been one of those people I had been closest to in terms of my rarely-seen extended family; in my earlier years, he was a primary giver of fun; at family get-togethers he'd hold me upside down so I could walk on the ceiling, much to my grandmother's vocal discontent, so it's not like I was so disconnected as to not feel anything; I just didn't.
I would later express to my mother that I didn't want to got to his funeral, my mother, upset by this retorted 'don't you want to say goodbye?' and other such things about family being disappointed if I didn't go. I declared 'It's just been hard on me', tears well in my eyes; but they weren't tears of sorrow, more of disgust at myself and my mother; at myself because at that point I still didn't really feel anything and that at that instant I couldn't contain myself rationally, and at my mother because of her insistence that I go regardless of my wishes, brushing aside the fact that she allowed my brother to stay home 'You know how he is.'
At the service, my eyes only welled up when the preacher hit the music; you know, that emotional manipulation music that is always played at funerals. Otherwise I stayed my usual grim-faced self though the entire thing, only feeling annoyance and passing curiosity at the people surrounding me; my uncle's widow was strangely composed. Her sisters gave a speech for her; they were highly emotional while she just sat there, not stony-faced, not highly emotive. I suppose that she had long come to terms with it. A couple of my cousins gave a speech, and they were remarkably interesting; only slightly older than I was at my first funeral and they had an interesting reaction in that they seemed... I'm not sure how to characterise them. They seemed normal; it was as if they weren't even talking about a very close, dead man. Maybe they just didn't grasp the significance at that point. And of course there was the typical, ever interesting sniffles and occasional wails of the majority of the audience, whom many were at least forty years my senior and still not resigned to this fact of life.
Though after the service, the crowd preformed a remarkable 180-flip to socialising quite normally, as if they weren't all there because of a death; I ended up getting into several conversations about my education and general life with people who knew me, despite my not remembering them in the slightest.

Despite the fact that I have never watched another human being die, due to my knowledge I am very well aware of death and have been since I was very young, and I've always been interested in death as a consequence; how and why people react primarily, and what comes after death, on the latter point I've spent many an hour thinking.
I have come to the conclusion that death is in fact the end: it will be as though the time before I was born; since my brain will have stopped, it makes no difference to me as that which makes up me; my thoughts, my intelligence, my hopes, dreams, memories will all simply stop existing in an instant.
Despite this reasoning, I cannot escape a sliver of fear in regards to my own inevitable death; I'm resigned to death, I honestly am and the fact holds no fear for me, but the concept that I'll just be gone; one second I'm here, another I simply cease to exist is... inestimably disquieting. Anybody else feel the same way?

The people closely associated with the namesake of female canines are suffering from a nondescript form of lunacy.
"Anti-environmentalism is like standing in front of a forest and going 'quick kill them they're coming right for us!'" - Jake Farr-Wharton, The Imaginary Friend Show.
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22-06-2014, 10:14 AM (This post was last modified: 22-06-2014 10:20 AM by Dom.)
RE: Let's talk about dying
(22-06-2014 09:41 AM)Free Thought Wrote:  
(21-06-2014 06:12 PM)Michael_Tadlock Wrote:  I recently watched the movie "The Fault in our Stars", which is about a young girl with terminal cancer who falls in love. I don't think this spoils too much, but nevertheless spoiler alert:
People die in this movie

It's a heart wrenching film because we don't like bad things to happen to young people who are in love, but moreover is its actually one of the few examples of both an honest and authentic movie about death. This got me thinking about a topic that has weighed on me for a while; in our society we don't spend nearly enough time talking about the end.

The United States in particular and many western countries are anti-aging and anti-death to begin with. It is the American attitude to pretend that everything will be alright and that we are all going to basically live forever and never grow old. In our books, movies, television shows, ect. it is rare that characters of consequence die, and very common that miraculous miracles occur and people are saved from the brink of death. This makes for a generally more cheerful experience than reality which is why we keep recycling this same cliches and plot pieces. It does, however, leave a huge void in our ethos. In western societies we very seldomly discuss death, and almost never consider the position of people who are slowly dieing. In our media we don't shy away from killing, violence, love, heartbreak, achievement, or even failure, but we are absolutely phobic of death; in particular slow and inevitable death. There is a certain irony in that because all of us WILL die, and most of us will die rather slowly. If there is anything in life we need to know a lot about, and should mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves for, it is the inevitable end of our life.

If you consider death from a philosophical position with atheistic assumptions, one might very well conclude that the purpose of living is to die. Every living thing in all the history of life (that we know of anyway, but it's a reasonable assumption) has died. Everything that is alive today will die. One day the sun will grow so large that it will swallow the earth, and then life as we know it will almost certainly end. If there is life on other planets somewhere in the universe, then that life is probably dying as well. If you consider the inevitable end of our own universe in "heat death" it seems clear that all things that can reasonably be called alive will one day come to an end. If there is anything about life that could be called purposeful, it would be death. It is as important and natural a part of living as being born, indeed one necessarily follows from the other. Yet we spend so little time consciously, thoughtfully, purposefully thinking about death.

Very recently my grandfather passed away. He was a hard man to know very well my grandfather, and his health was very poor for a long time so it came as no surprise. I am a little ashamed to admit that his passing was not particularly hard on me. It was very hard on my father, however. My grandfather died of an infection, and he spent much of his finals days incoherent and unconscious. If you have never been around a person on deaths door step it is difficult to describe. People who are terminally ill tend to lay with their head uncomfortably far up, and their mouth out. They often make low moaning and throat noises. Often their eyes will be in the back of their head, or rolling around in their sockets. In the case of my grandfather, he was fighting an infection so his body was rigid and shivering. His skin was cold and very pale. In places it was colored yellow or bruised unnatural shades of blue. Dying of an illness is probably the ugliest and least dignifying way to die, and, like most people who pass away, this how my grandfather met his end. Suffice to say that is extremely jarring to see someone you love on deaths doorstep.

It quite literally scared the shit out of my father, seeing my grandfather in that condition. He made it clear to me, my brothers, and his wife, that if he was ever sick in the same that he wanted to end his own life. I found it surprising at the time that my father was so rattled by the experience, and it became clear to me that this man who was almost fifty years old had never had a real experience with death before. He had gone well over half his life without really realizing what the end really looked like.

At this point I want to recommend a very difficult to watch, but very well done documentary called "The End". It is about six people who are facing terminal diseases in hospice care. It is a completely and brutally honest glimpse into the end of life. Something I think everyone needs experience, at least once, before they experience it for themselves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_Q_6AKLK_Q

I learned a few simple truths watching this documentary. The first is that nobody is ever really ready to die. I have personally been terrified at the thought of death since I was eleven years old. I have lost a lot of sleep thinking about the end, and as an atheist I never had the comfort of believing in an afterlife or in a god; I always knew that there was no conscious existence waiting for me on the other side. My father told me on many occasions before my grandfather passed away that he was not afraid to die. I don't think that is true anymore. We are all afraid of the end, and I don't think it is really possible to have both a zeal for living and to have true peace and acceptance with your own death. For my own part I have an recently developed an uneasy acceptance of the end, but I think it is likely that the thought of dying will scare me for the rest of my life.

Another simple truth is that nobody ever dies with dignity. In the documentary I linked above they followed the last hours of a man dying of lung cancer. In the beginning of his segment he was a fairly husky, typical looking midwestern white man in his late sixties. On his last night alive he was skin and bones with a full beard, being lowered into a special bed in a giant adult diaper. He spent his last hours fighting for a full breath while his son, clearly unable to emotionally and mentally process what was going on, made lame jokes at his expense.

This leads me to another simple truth, which I witnessed in this film and with my grandfather - death is ugly and death is painful. We like to imagine ourselves and our love ones simply falling asleep and never waking up, liking dozing as if for a nap or going under like in a surgery. This is not the case for most people. For most people dieing is extremely unpleasant. The last experience of my life might very well be the worst experience I will ever have. The thought of slowly suffocating to death terrifies me probably more than anything. What I didn't realize until recently is that many people don't die from organ failure, at least that is not the last thing that causes their death. Often the lungs will fill with fluids and the final thing that ends your their life is that they can't breath. Assuming I live long enough to die of an illness, this will very likely happen to me. It certainly will happen to most of us.

This is what I have been thinking about this most, in regards to thinking about death, recently. I am less plagued by the concept of an eternal nothingness, but instead find myself contemplating the last minutes, hours, days, months and years of life. I have developed a tremendous amount of sympathy for elderly people. In our culture we don't spend any time considering what it must be like to live long enough to know your death will be coming very soon. Many people, indeed somewhere close to half of all people, will outlive their life partner. We all essentially die alone, but many of us take comfort in knowing that our last days will not be spent alone. Many people do spent their last days, essentially, alone. I know that if I outlive my life partner I will have nothing to look forward to except for my own fast approaching death. I know that I will be marginalized and largely ignored because I am a burden and uncomfortable to think about. I know that my mind will be slow, and that I will probably spend some time needing help from nurses and family members to do basic things like use the toilet. I know that I will probably feel embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated and in pain, and I know that even then, in the middle of all that loneliness all that discomfort that is the last days of my life, that even then I will still be terrified to die.

As bitterly depressing as this thread is, I don't mean to imply that life is shitty or that even that there is nothing good or meaningful for the individual in the process of dying. Personally I have never been able to force myself not to think about unpleasant truths. Death and the process of dying are unpleasant, but they are inevitable. I think personally think that death needs to be talked about, all the time, and to people at all stages of their life. It shouldn't be something that you learn all about at your end. I don't think you can ever truly prepare yourself for death but I do think you it can be made a little easier if you know what to expect. I think many people are in denial about death. This is not only harmful for themselves, it is harmful for other people. We spend our lives avoiding everything that reminds us of these inevitable truths. Often dieing people must shoulder the emotionally burden of dieing without sympathy and without preparation. We use medicine to numb pain, and we need to use support and education to help curb loneliness and fear. I think it should be very difficult for fifty year old men to go their who life with no concept of death. What do you think?

Death... Death has always had an... interesting... relationship with me...

Obligatory life-story time!
Since my earliest rememberable days, I've been familiar with death, I was exposed to it fairly early on, I suppose as a consequence of me being surrounded to a great extent of medical interest through my medically-inclined family. I suppose this also lead to me maturing at a far greater rate than my peers as well, even today, I'm ahead of the curve.

My first experience with death will probably remain in me forever, but it was not my most powerful experience.
It was my beloved pet rabbit Thumper: I remember going out to feed him one morning before anybody else was awake and discovering him unmoving in his wire hutch; one white-furred paw turned red. I'm not sure, but I think he bled to death after a stray wire pierced his foot. I cried for days. Even at the memory, I'm not ashamed to admit tears well slowing in my eyes.

After that, I was exposed to the aftermath of death numerous times; I recall my first funeral to a small degree. A friend of my parents had died and I, to my great objection, was dragged along, as a support I suppose, though I don't recall my elder siblings being taken. My brother has always been exempt from funeral going; he doesn't handle it well, he is far too emotional and fragile a person, which still annoys me. And my sister... hell if I know.
That funeral service sparked a great interest in me; since then I've been fascinated with death and how people react to it, I remember thinking at a later funeral: "Why is everybody crying? Don't they know you can't runaway from it?"

Since then I've been frequently dragged to funerals; my beloved great aunts both died and I was taken along, each time marvelling at the adults crying over something I thought as inevitable and not worth crying over; they're so old they must have been resigned to death by now. Not the case, little me; below ten years and already death was just a curiosity to me. I don't remember crying at either funeral, or even feeling sad, despite my loving relationship with both of the coddling old ladies.

The second death I cried for was my beloved cat, Tiger. I had known her since my youngest days, and I'm sure I caused her untold annoyance, being an impudent child who didn't know his place in the family pecking order, frequently disturbing her rest or hiding. She died only a few years ago; I watched her go almost until the end. Once again, I am unashamed to admit that at the thought of her my eyes well up and my heart softens. The weeks before her death I am sure were horrible; she first contracted an eye infection which steadily grew worse; my mother neglected to do anything as she 'didn't have the money' and my father did not have access to his favourite, decades-long companion as my mother and he had split up. Eventually she didn't even have the energy to get up and and go to her tray or even eat. My mother went off with a boyfriend leaving my brother, sister and I with an old, slowly dying cat; we promptly invited my father to see her and stay for a night and he arranged for her to be put down. I was not there to watch; I refused to go, not trusting myself to maintain composed, instead I stayed home and wept silently to myself, but it wasn't at all like my reaction to my rabbit; this time I understood. I petted her body one final time once my father and sister returned with her body, which we buried later that night; I stood quite while my family said their final good-byes.

More recently still, my uncle died of bowl cancer; it was sudden; they only caught it in it's final stages and could do nothing. I'm told he died quietly in a hostel. When I received the news, my mother called my brother into my room to tell us; her eyes were bloodshot and she obviously had a hard time expressing her thoughts and trying to explain it. My brother immediately reacted; he looked down at the ground and shuffled his feet, obviously upset by the news; I just looked at my mother, waiting for more detail. This angered her. "Well? What do you have to say?!" I didn't feel anything, not that I admitted it. My uncle had certainly been one of those people I had been closest to in terms of my rarely-seen extended family; in my earlier years, he was a primary giver of fun; at family get-togethers he'd hold me upside down so I could walk on the ceiling, much to my grandmother's vocal discontent, so it's not like I was so disconnected as to not feel anything; I just didn't.
I would later express to my mother that I didn't want to got to his funeral, my mother, upset by this retorted 'don't you want to say goodbye?' and other such things about family being disappointed if I didn't go. I declared 'It's just been hard on me', tears well in my eyes; but they weren't tears of sorrow, more of disgust at myself and my mother; at myself because at that point I still didn't really feel anything and that at that instant I couldn't contain myself rationally, and at my mother because of her insistence that I go regardless of my wishes, brushing aside the fact that she allowed my brother to stay home 'You know how he is.'
At the service, my eyes only welled up when the preacher hit the music; you know, that emotional manipulation music that is always played at funerals. Otherwise I stayed my usual grim-faced self though the entire thing, only feeling annoyance and passing curiosity at the people surrounding me; my uncle's widow was strangely composed. Her sisters gave a speech for her; they were highly emotional while she just sat there, not stony-faced, not highly emotive. I suppose that she had long come to terms with it. A couple of my cousins gave a speech, and they were remarkably interesting; only slightly older than I was at my first funeral and they had an interesting reaction in that they seemed... I'm not sure how to characterise them. They seemed normal; it was as if they weren't even talking about a very close, dead man. Maybe they just didn't grasp the significance at that point. And of course there was the typical, ever interesting sniffles and occasional wails of the majority of the audience, whom many were at least forty years my senior and still not resigned to this fact of life.
Though after the service, the crowd preformed a remarkable 180-flip to socialising quite normally, as if they weren't all there because of a death; I ended up getting into several conversations about my education and general life with people who knew me, despite my not remembering them in the slightest.

Despite the fact that I have never watched another human being die, due to my knowledge I am very well aware of death and have been since I was very young, and I've always been interested in death as a consequence; how and why people react primarily, and what comes after death, on the latter point I've spent many an hour thinking.
I have come to the conclusion that death is in fact the end: it will be as though the time before I was born; since my brain will have stopped, it makes no difference to me as that which makes up me; my thoughts, my intelligence, my hopes, dreams, memories will all simply stop existing in an instant.
Despite this reasoning, I cannot escape a sliver of fear in regards to my own inevitable death; I'm resigned to death, I honestly am and the fact holds no fear for me, but the concept that I'll just be gone; one second I'm here, another I simply cease to exist is... inestimably disquieting. Anybody else feel the same way?

I'd like to make two points here:

Firstly, it is totally normal for you to feel little or nothing when older relatives die - until it's your parents. Grief is a physical reaction to a void in one's life. If you had lived with the dead person 24/7 for say 10 or 20 years, you would grieve, whether you even liked them or not. The less consistent time spent with the person, the lower your physical reaction. Note I keep saying physical, it has little to do with what kind of person you are. Of course you also have that crying at funerals is contagious, and you have no idea what people are actually crying about. Spilt milk (they didn't get to tell the dead this or that etc.), their own mortality, no one left to share a specific set of memories with, or real grief by those who have a void in their life now. Note that none of these reasons actually have much to do with feelings for the dead, they are all introverted feelings, feelings about oneself and one's life.

Secondly, your feelings about death change with the stages of life. It doesn't actually have anything to do with age, although age runs parallel to the stages of life as a rule. The younger you are, the less mortal you are as a rule, and the less mortal you feel. The less mortal you feel, the less death affects you. Secondly, hormones play a role, as an older teen and through your twenties, generally the mating game rules your mind. This leads to pointless suicides (permanent solutions to temporary issues) or frantic mating attempts. Then comes the child bearing stage - you abhor death, you can't leave your kids alone. Next stage your kids are gone and so are your parents. Now death starts to mean something different, and you struggle more with it as it suddenly becomes more real. Now suddenly people start dying all around you, one by one your friends and relatives are gone. There is suddenly a lot of void in your life. If you have kids, they are busy with their own families. Then your body starts wearing out and there are things you can't do anymore. And that is when many people start to become friends with death. And that is how it should be.

The point of this rant is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being scared of death, or feeling nothing when others die. It all has to do with stages of life or immediate involvement in the life of the dead.

[Image: dobie.png]Science is the process we've designed to be responsible for generating our best guess as to what the fuck is going on. Girly Man
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