DEATH: end of life

This may seem like a ghoulish posting, but it’s a legitimate result of thinking about significant words that are common in our language.    No, I’m not obsessing on death, and I’m not aware of being traumatized by someone’s death.  I’m just thinking out loud about something that I think is worth consideration.

It bothers the heck out of me that I might die and not know it.

Just think about it.  You know when you’re sick.  You know when your leg hurts.  You know when it’s time to get up and go to work.  You know when you’re hungry.

But there is no guarantee that you will know when you die.  In thinking about it, it occurs to me that death is like anesthesia.  When you are “under” for surgery you are totally unaware of what is happening around you.    Every six months I have to have an endoscopy, in which the physician injects me with a chemical.  I seldom even remember him removing the needle from the catheter.   The next thing I know, I’m in a recovery room, wide awake, and totally unaware of what has transpired over the past hour.   Sometimes I’m actually home, reading the paper and drinking a cup of coffee  before I’m really awake.

The point is that during that period of time when I was under anesthesia I didn’t know what was happening to me.  In a sense, I was “dead to the world,” a casual phrase we use to describe someone who is in a deep sleep or under anesthesia.  It occurs to me that I might die sitting in a chair watching Jeopardy, sound asleep in my bed, or even sitting in Starbucks reading the New York Times.   Who knows when that will happen.  All we know is that it will happen.  None of us is immune to death ultimately.

It has been said that our eventual death is a factor which distinguishes us from the rest of the animal world.  We know we are going to die some day.  Knowing that, we make certain concessions to life, as in my friend who says that he never buys green bananas any more.  He knows that he is at an age when death is just around the corner.  (He’s actually quite healthy and will probably live a lot longer, green bananas or not.)

But the very thought that I might just stop living and not even know that it has happened to me bothers me.  I know that there are all kinds of theories and spiritual beliefs about what happens to us after we die.  But I’m more and more convinced that when my physical body dies it just ceases to function.   What happens beyond that is a mystery and, hopefully a surprise.   But as to knowing that I have died?   I’m not sure I’ll experience that.

My “control” factors point to that as problematic.  But, problematic or not, it’s out of my control.  Sorry, I can’t let you know after it happens.  It doesn’t work that way.


Photo Credit: Riverview

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