Tag Archives: what happens when you die

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?

What is Death Anyway?

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, Photoshops Ricardo "Ricky" Bernabeu in reframing death.Many rave about watching a birth. But maybe more awesome is witnessing life’s end. Years ago I tried to watch departing life evaporate into nowhere from the still form of my father. I stared, transfixed on the invisible drama, waiting for signs of a soul already taken flight: the just-stopped pulse, the empty lifeless eyes. My father’s half open, black marble eyes still caught glimpses of light. For how long could he see me? He lay there calm and still while his family shook in sobs. I could not tell if the life ebbed out of him slowly, or if it left as in the flick of a switch.

The astounding mystery of where life goes in the time it takes for a heart to stop beating makes death intriguing company to sit with. Is life locked dormant inside or does it dissipate into the negative space among the grieving family members? Does it escape into countless particles of dust? Are there a gazillion invisible, homeless souls freed from their earthly shells, crammed around us, hovering over the ones they loved and left behind? Where does life go?

There are a million different ways to look at death:
Our dying begins the moment we take our first breath so death is the last part of life, the completion of a cycle of bloom and decay; We are all dying but some of us simply have an earlier flight; Death is a transition, not an end, of body, mind, and spirit; Death is passing on the torch, joining the line of ancestors that anchor the living to the past and future. It’s the termination of our vital processes, a break in our stream of consciousness, an illusion, an adventure, freedom from earthly pain, a disease with no cure, a change in our physical forms, …Maybe the deceased live alongside us, having shed their bodies but not their souls.

However we look at it, death is not about being lost.


Admiring Ricardo “Ricky” Bernabeu’s eyes. What are some other ways of looking at death?