Today, I felt like writing about death.
A few days ago, a former student posted to say that his father just died. He was a tall, elitist man from a prominent family. His kids are all successful and he contented himself enjoying his big house with all the amenities. The cause of his death? He slipped in the wet pavement outside his house just as the first strong rains of May came pouring by. On his way down, his head struck the concrete plantbox, rendering him unconscious. He never woke up until death took him away.
Great men and women have died and they won’t be returning anymore. The mere thought of our dead love ones makes us cry. I remember how the late Rudy Fernandez battled death who engulfed him in the form of liver cancer. I thought he was winning the war after seeking medical treatment in the United States, but death won in the end. In the 80s and 90s, I became fascinated with the songs of Matt Monro, fondly called “The Singer’s Singer.” I thought he would continue long to entertain us with his most beautiful voice, but in 1985, like Fernandez, he succumbed to liver cancer.
Yes, this is life, fellas. People come and go and no matter what we do, death will surely come to us sooner or later.
But people simply refuse to die. The thought of leaving children, wealth or wife is just too much for a rich or famous man to ponder upon and he will do everything to derail the coming of death.
Dr. Maria Cohut explains:
“To a greater or lesser extent, it is likely that we are all scared of death – whether it be the thought of our own cessation or the fear that someone we love might pass away. The thought of death is not a pleasant one, and many of us avoid such morbid musings, naturally choosing to focus on what life has to offer, as well as on our own wishes and goals, instead.”
Yet, as Benjamin Franklin once famously wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” so it is no surprise that death-related worries sometimes take us by storm.
Fear of death is sometimes referred to as “thanatophobia,” derived from the Ancient Greek words “Thanatos,” the name of the god of death, and “phobos,” meaning “fear.”
Tunde Ogunjimi who lives in Lagos, Nigeria says: “People cannot refuse to die. They just must die. It’s the inevitable end. It’s good to prepare for death be he comes – for he will surely come. When and how he chooses to come is what we don’t know. Death won’t take ‘No’ for an answer. His demands always get a ‘Yes’. His demands may be delayed, but he always gets it. Prepare for the inevitable end of man – you and me. There is a gloom of darkness hanging over us all. I find my own peace in the words of Jesus that there is a better place for me beyond this material universe.”
Nobody lives forever, fellas.
The great Shih Huang Ti, founder of the dreaded Chin Dynasty and the Chinese empire simply refused to die. He consulted palace magicians and sorcerers and sent his loyal subjects far and wide to look for that potion that would keep him young and immortal. But he died an unhappy death.
Alexander the Great hoped to live long to realize his dream of founding a royal army out of the breed between his Macedonian forces and the Persian women elitists. His dream never came true. He died young of malaria. He was only 33.
Genghis Khan, head of the dreaded Mongol horde and conqueror of Asia dreamt of ruling the biggest empire on earth, but he did not sit long on his throne. Death, tradition says, came to him swiftly as he choked to death during a banquet.
Bob Garon, a great lecturer, columnist and philosopher wrote:
“Death is the only sure thing in life. There is no escaping it. It will come as surely as the setting of the sun. The man who has not come to terms with death cannot truly be happy. There is always a dark cloud hanging over him and somehow watering down the joys that he may experience. People who refuse to think about death begin to live and behave as though they are immortal. Refusing to acknowledge the reality of death is like saying that they will live forever.
It is good to think about death once in a while. It makes us more human. It reminds us that we are not the gods we sometimes make ourselves out to be. The thought of death also urges us to make decisions that we had been putting off. It reminds us that time is short, and if we are to make the best of all the days that we have left, we must get on with the business of living.”
No one wants to face death, yet no one can escape it. What we can do is hope our own death is comfortable, peaceful, and meaningful. However, we can do the following suggestions to prepare for that inevitable day:
1. Plan ahead and make your wishes known
Preparing for death should start before you even receive a terminal diagnosis. It’s important to take some time to think through your goals, make important decisions and share them with your loved ones. Completing an advance directive, which is a document that outlines your wishes, is the best way to ensure your end-of-life preferences are honored.
2. Plan your own funeral
Planning your own funeral ensures that you get what you want for the price you want to pay. Your funeral or memorial celebration will reflect your personality and will be a truly memorable event. Planning ahead also saves your loved ones from having to plan something meaningful in the midst of their grief, which is a great gift to leave behind.
3. Allow yourself to grieve
It is normal to have a wide range of emotions and responses. Coping mechanisms, such as denial and anger, may kick in as the individual deals with his or her own grief and the emotions of their loved ones.
4. Review your life
One of the most important things you will do as you prepare for death is review your life. This is the step most people talk about when they discuss regrets, accomplishments, hopes and dreams. Doing a life review is a way to bring closure to a dying individual. It can also serve as a legacy of life to the dying individual’s loved ones.
5. Know what to expect from the dying process
There is a natural process that occurs as an individual nears death, and while each person is unique, the dying process is universal. Many people find it helpful to know what to expect during a typical dying process. This guide will prepare you for what lies ahead on your journey towards death.
Death is a natural thing, fellas. We come, we go.
Truly, William Shakespeare, the great dramatist said it best:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. ●