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"Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark." - Bacon
There may be a thousand reasons why we fear death, but most of all we fear
death because we fear the unknown, and death is an unknown entity to most
people. We fear that dying may be painful and we do not know what will happen
to us at the point of death.
Some people fear death because they imagine the dying process to be very
painful. Death is not painful. In fact, death is often very peaceful and
silent even for those suffering from cancers or other terminal illness.
When the physical body is deteriorating day by day from a terminal illness,
and pain arises from superficial wound such as bed sores, or deep pain such
as bone or nerve pain, death may even be a welcome relief for the sufferer.
We need to distinguish the pain of the physical body from the process of
dying. The dying process is a distinct process that is separate from the
deterioration of the physical body. At the point of death, there is no pain.
What happens at death is the cessation of the breath and all other physiological
functions of the physical body. The heart stops pumping and the blood circulation
stops moving. The body stops generating heat, and thus progressively turns
For those who believe that we are more than just a physical body, and that
we are in fact spiritual beings, the dying process means much more than just
physical death. Death is just a natural process that allows us to discard
the physical body as we move into the spiritual realm.
Since our fear of death is due to the fact that we do not know or understand
death, it makes sense to familiarise ourselves with it. The more we understand
death, the less we fear it. We should therefore cultivate a friendship with
death, and be totally familiar with it, just as we are familiar with our
We can cultivate a friendship with death in three simple steps:
1. Establish a link with God.
2. Cultivate a habit of acceptance, instead of blame.
3. Be a blessing to others.
Establish a link with God.
By establishing a link with God, we touch base with our own spirituality.
God can be whatever you perceive God to be. For Christians, Muslims and Hindus,
that may mean an omnipotent God. For Buddhists, it may mean the Buddha seed
within. Atheists may have to come to term with their own spirituality.
Establishing a link with God means re-gaining your spirituality. It leads
you closer to the spiritual aspect of yourself. Whether we accept it or not,
we are more than just this physical body. When we die, we leave this physical
body behind and only our spirituality continues on.
It is therefore essential for us to be familiar with our own spirituality.
It is the only part of us that continues after death. This 'fact' is in
accordance with all major religions.
Cultivate a Habit of Acceptance.
It is funny how when good things come to us, we readily accept them as though
we deserve them or we have worked hard for them, yet when calamities befall
us we quickly look for an external source to blame.
This is especially so when misfortunes such as terminal illness befall us.
We may blame God, and later blame ourselves or people around us. We should
cultivate a habit of neutrality regardless of whether good or bad things
come our way. Otherwise, we can become very bitter about life when negative
things happened. Looking for someone or something to blame only serve to
prolong our own suffering. Death is an enemy when we resist it, but the moment
we accept it, it turns into an ally.
However, cultivating a habit of acceptance does not mean not doing anything
to correct or improve our conditions. It does not mean, for example, that
when we are diagnosed with a terminal illness we do nothing about it. It
is only sensible to seek treatment, if it is available to us. On the other
hand, it also means we must know and accept when curative treatment is no
longer possible. We fear death only when we refuse to face it.
Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people who would take advantage of
our fear of death to sell their 'cure'. In my experience with the terminally
ill, I have come across countless stories of dying people being duped into
parting with their savings and properties in the hope of achieving a cure.
Be a Blessing to Others.
This is our greatest and most reliable ally at the time of death.
Knowing that we have been helpful to others and that we have tried to live
a blameless life takes away the fear of death. If our life has been an honest
one, free of any conscious intention to hurt any living beings, we have nothing
to fear when death approaches. Our mind will be at peace, undisturbed.
On the other hand, those who lead selfish lives, and harm others to get little
advantages for themselves, find themselves imprisoned in tiny, dark cells
when they move to the other side.
Therefore, while we still can, we should give our best to the world and to
people around us. Lend a helping hand to others and help to lighten their
loads. Bring joy to the joyless and comfort to those in need of comfort.
There are many who are less fortunate than us. Count our blessings and be
a blessing to others.
Tim Ong is a medical doctor with more than 14 years of experience in family
medicine. He is the author of the online "Build From Within" ezine and "The
Book of Transformation". He is also the webmaster of
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