Fear of Dying – #FridayReflections

Did you just say, ‘fear of dying’?

Yes, I heard you right. I used to be very scared of death once. Don’t get me wrong. I still do. But, now, it is a different kind of fear.

In fact, this is one thought that has haunted me a lot since childhood. The ‘fear’ factor has kicked in every time I’ve heard someone I’ve known, leave this world. Now, while reflecting upon an incident that took place many years back, I feel I used to be much more scared of death as a child. It so happened, that one morning in the school assembly, we were informed that one of our classmates had died due to a sudden illness and that later in the day we would be paying a visit to bid her a final goodbye. When we all went to see her from school, she lay there, in perfect repose, looking serene, dressed beautifully, surrounded by wailing relatives, looking like she was so much at peace. I shuddered to see her dead – it seemed nothing could touch her anymore. Not even the love or the pain of her beloved family. She was so removed from everything – and that is what pained me. It haunted me for days to think of how I would deal with something like that. The thought of leaving my family behind scared me…I simply dreaded the thought. Understandably, the sense of security and the bond of attachment with which a child depends on her family is much stronger in those early years and death was simply unthinkable. How, on earth, could I leave mum and dad and my kid brother behind? Thoughts that could only come to a naive 9-year-old!

But, as we know nothing is constant. As we grow older, life changes us. Our sense of pain and fear undergo metamorphosis. We get altered; our sense of purpose, goals, and motivations, infact, everything that means anything to us, undergoes change. It is somewhere along these life-changing moments, that our concept and our response to death changes too.

Like everyone else, I’ve had my fair share of pain and heartbreaks too…often, exceeding my threshold of tolerance, leaving me with a wish to obliterate myself from the face of this world. Not just once or twice, but a good many times. If I were to honestly admit, I’d say, I’ve had situations when death seemed like the only way to remove myself from a painful place; be it in case of a frustrating relationship or a difficult phase in life because the pain from those tormenting moments seemed relentless and death seemed to be the only apparent reliever. I’m so eternally grateful that nothing in life is constant. As it happens, thanks to the universal life-force, and my inner strength, I survived the odds, came out unscathed, to find myself in a place where the joys of living eventually reinforced their way in, helping me to leave those dark thoughts behind for good.

I now believe that everything happens for a reason- that one must live through darkness only to appreciate every little ray of light that filters in through the cracks within us. We are more than a sum-total of every heartbreak that we go through, after all.

And, therefore, thanks to the countless shocks and the knocks from life, I remain an eternal optimist. Today, I find it much easier to accept death as an inevitable part of living. The terrible sense of finality does not disturb me. Instead, I’m even more conscious of the little time that I have in hand. As for ‘death’, I know I must meet it someday. What I now worry about, is how much time will I have, before I come to meet it face to face? Will I live long enough in this world before that happens? Will I live to see our son grown up and settled, happy to have found his true calling in life? Will J and I have enough years to laugh, grumble, argue and enjoy our old age traveling the world together? Will I be able to write that book I’ve always dreamt of writing someday? Will there be enough time to discover who I really am before death finally catches up with me?

 

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Thoughts galore, thoughts that creep up slowly on a quiet day, as I let my mind travel back and forth, wondering – will I be able to live my dream of dying a ‘contented’ soul someday, one who lived life on her own terms, happy to have made those mistakes and lived a full life?

Yes, I am scared of death. I’m scared of dying sad and unhappy, of dying with regrets that I never fulfilled my dreams, of regrets that I never tried all those wonderful things, of not being able to tell my loved ones how much they meant to me all their lives, and of not having enough time to find out who I really am.

So, you see, it is not the fear of dying that keeps me up at night, anymore. If there is anything, it is the fear of not living and not trying that does.

Tell me, have you ever thought of dying? What are your thoughts when you think of ‘death’? Does it haunt you ever? 

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14 thoughts

  1. Beautiful! In essence, you and I said the same things. It’s about living well and dying without a regret.
    Also, I read your above reply to Shalini. I am also from a Catholic school but we were never taken to bid goodbyes on occasions like this. Like Shalini, this shocked me too.

    1. Thanks, Parul. Yes, we were speaking on a similar vein on living well before death came. Talking of bidding goodbyes, it was something that happened quite a few times during my school years when we all walked the entire way to pray for the departed soul, esp if it was a classmate. The Naga custom demanded it and I guess the sisters respected that.

  2. I dont have the fear of death; never did infact. I have been to a fair share of funerals for my loved ones and its been morbid n sad; so I cant imagine how a School took 9 yr olds for one….. It must have been traumatic to see a dead body!

    1. Oh, perhaps I didn’t mention as a Catholic school they still do take kids along to say their final goodbyes to a classmate…offerign flowers and prayers! It was traumatising for a very long time, indeed 🙁

  3. The questions towards the end of the post are going on in my mind too.. Will I finally find myself before death reaches me….?It’s a really thoughtful post…. Personally, I fear death.. even today.. it is in my mind constantly… when someone doesn’t pick up the phone, when they are late ..when the lift stops midway.. when we are saved from an accident in nick of time… I am afraid.. yes… perhaps this acceptance of the inevitable will take time to settle in….

    1. It does take time Pratikshya. I think for me the last three years have been life-changing because of a health condition that forced me to question lot of things I’d never ever given a thought to. I grew up years…almost overnite in a leap that suddenly made me face upto many difficult situations. I think we all go through these at some point in our lives and then as it were, we are better equipped to accept the inevitability of death in our lives. Take your time in living life, Pratikshya…there should be no rush to consider anything else. Things fall in place with time and always for a reason. But, I do get you when you mention about these different situations that scares you about death. It did for me too…a lot of the time once.

  4. Such questions on death or the end of it afflict us when someone passes way. Regret is something that comes to the fore when I think about it and the fear is always there but at the same time embracing the inevitable. You injected the right questions in this wonderful post about death or not making the most of life. Brilliant Esha.

    1. Thank you, Vishal. I guess I just put down what goes on in my head a lot of the time these days. So many questions about time and people and about the self that still lie unanswered and I wonder how much time do I really have with me…very strange but thats how it really is, believe me.

      1. So true, Esha. There are several questions that keep raging in my head, too be it on death, life, relationships or friendships. Watch out for my next one on friendship.

  5. I can understand exactly how you must be feeling, mine is something opposite – I had never feared death till when I was a mom, after my elder son was born, suddenly I became conscious of everything around me.

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