I think everyone, at some point in their lives thinks about death and gets a little nervous, if not downright scared.
I remember living in Los Angeles in the 70′s and hearing about the Zodiac serial killer. I was certain, when I’d go to sleep at night that it wasn’t far enough away that he couldn’t drive from the Bay Area in California down to Southern California and make me one of his victims. As a child of nine, with a bedroom window that faced the front yard and the street we lived on, it was a real fear to me, as day after day the newspapers and television reporters would tell of his latest victim.
It isn’t so much death, in and of itself, people fear as the process of death they may have to endure. For example, I don’t fear the actual moment of death itself, for I believe the next moment – or soon thereafter – I will be in a far better place. I have, however, feared the process.
How will I go? Will I fade quietly as I snore my last snore? Or will I gasp for my last breath? Will I be joking around to the end and then close my eyes and happily drift off into an eternal sleep? Will I suffer with pain or be pain free? There are an endless plethora of options and I am opting for pain free and quick. I am hoping that is God’s agenda, too.
However, what – just what if – it isn’t God’s agenda? What if HIS agenda involves years of pain, years of disintegrating into an unrecognizable, immobile, sickly shell that has no one who cares? What if that?
It was that – exactly that thought – that freaked me out the other day. What if that? What if I can’t control my movements, I speak funny, I drool all over my shirt, I choke when I eat while someone else feeds me? What if all that and I am all alone in a nursing home where those I have loved have stopped coming to visit because they “can’t bear to see Mama like that anymore?” What if the only attention I get any more are the stares of the curious grandchildren who visit their grandmother once a week – the woman in the room next to yours?
Necrophobia. Thanatophobia. Both names for the fear of death or dying, or of things dead. Irrational fears they say. Irrational because we are “all subconsciously programmed to fear death,” according to the good Professor H. Slade XXX of wiki.answers.com .
Well, yeah. Even if I was unconscious I think I might still fear death, Professor Slade. But, consciously? Not really, for as J.K. Rowling wrote in the Harry Potter series, “It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”
And it is there, in the middle of Rowling’s book, Half-Blood Prince, I find the words to explain my thoughts. It is the unknown I fear.
Will there be gasping? Drooling? Choking? Children seeing a disease and not a person? It is the unknown we fear.
If there is a fear of dying, then there must be an opposite. I call this opposite, courage for the future. While courage is not a state of being, as fear is, it’s an action – a response. A response to act (even in the midst of fear itself) courageous. You’re still afraid – and with good reason. But now you’re facing that fear with hope and hope does not disappoint because with hope comes peace and in peace fear cannot survive.
What can I confidently say to fear?
“I know no such thing,” she said to herself as the children walked by her door. And then she stuck out her tongue at them and as they giggled, her expressionless face, molded into stone by her Parkinson’s disease, began to crumble – at least on the inside – and she smiled.