Afraid of Dying

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a beach to illustrate the life and death cycle.You’re afraid of dying, you say, afraid of dying alone mostly. I wish I could tell you how this thing called death works and what dying means. Or where we end up in the end. I wish I could alleviate your fears, and tell you the best comes after life, that there will be music and bright lights and long-lost loved ones welcoming you. But I’m still trying to convince myself there’s more than nothingness, that after we die we reach some eternal heavenly state of consciousness, if not an actual heavenly place.

All I know is that for eons of time, trillions and gazillions of other beings before us have made this journey of conception, life, and then death. That this is part of a great cycle. And that maybe, possibly, death is not the last stage.

What if we think of this life-death cycle as a beach? Over the course of your lifetime you crept along the sandy shore, and then toddled, walked, and eventually waded into the water where you swam and dove through the waves, never noticing the tide gently dragging you out ever farther. And now every breath takes so much energy and struggling. Yet you keep swimming until there is nothing but ocean and sky, and soon you become part of them both. It’s like when you were born. You had no choice in being born, no control. You yielded to the forces pulling you into the then unknown world. Now it is time once more to be carried along into another great unknown.

You will not be alone at the end. There are those who will be honored to sit vigil with you and make you comfortable at this sacred time. Let’s call Hospice. Allow people in. I will come myself when I can, wearing my red-beaded necklace, the one like yours, because greeting death with red beads seems both gutsy and appropriate. I’ll hold your hands and listen to your memories, or to your breathing. Maybe I’ll rub your feet.

And finally, when you are gone to the great wherever, I will always love you and remember you. Whenever I wear those beads I’ll think of you laughing boldly in a bevy of friends, immaculately bedecked with makeup and perfectly matched jewels.

 

What can you do to assuage a loved one’s fear of dying?

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4 thoughts on “Afraid of Dying

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    Beautiful and hard, Robin. This is a courageous blog and we need that. I could do nothing to soothe my brother’s fear of dying, as much as I tried. Vic grappled with the annihilation of his personal self but had an underlying faith he was going somewhere. By the time death came, he was ready to let go. I felt he was moving fast on a great journey. I don’t know how I’ll do. At the moment I don’t fear death so much as what comes before with some illnesses. Fortunately my sons know to call Hospice. If I have a choice, I’d like to die in the hospice residence so my family and I can be surrounded by support. It’s the Great Mystery. The Great Unknown.

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    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Faith is really helpful, Elaine. I envy people who have faith. This dying thing is such a journey, so different for everyone. I agree with you – it’s the going and what comes before death that keeps me awake nights reading all these books on Facing Death and Finding Hope. I like the idea of dying in a Hospicare Residence as well, although now that I’ve seen my mother die at home under the care of devoted aides, I’m more likely to try to arrange a home-dying if I can find enough support for that. I’m very likely going to be terrified like your brother was, inconsolable. But perhaps if I start planning for it and controlling parts that I can control – like I just now got the idea that I could replace my desk here in the living room with a hospital bed – when my time comes. I believe that if I focus on designing my way out of this world I’ll be able to deal with my death a bit better.

      Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you, Lynne. I wrote it with my mother in mind. She had been keeping up and communicating through my blog so I figured I’d write a blog for her. It was right before I was flying down to visit with her. I did get to spend some good time with my mother. She wasn’t able to hear me or speak about much as they started her on morphine right after I arrived. She died the day before the post was published. So I’m glad to know that you found some comfort in it. Cheers!

      Reply

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