We all need to learn to die well, whatever age we are. —Rob Moll, The Art of Dying
Libby and I were listening to a TED Talk by Ivy League lawyer, Elyn Saks. She was sharing her struggles with schizophrenia and what it was like from inside her heart and mind. I’ve never heard anyone describe it this way before. And as she talked about what psychotic episodes feel like, I found myself thinking; You could never explain what mental illness is like unless you’ve personally experienced it.
Some things you have to personally experience to be able to explain them.
There is one topic that hasn’t been covered by any TED Talks: What it’s like to experience death. I’m not talking about the out-of-body experience full of light that some describe. I’m talking about death to the degree that the person is declared dead, the body is prepared and buried. There aren’t any talks on this; no one can share from experience. Death is a great unknown.
Because death is unknown, it elicits fear. Author Rob Moll, in his book The Art of Dying, describes three fears we experience when we think about death:
- The loss of control
- Incomplete dreams or goals in life
- Separation from our loved ones
And I’d add one more:
Growing up, when I thought about my own death, what terrified me most was being so very alone at that moment.
The vast majority of our world is absolutely terrified of dying and what comes after. And yet there is a subset of people for whom there is no fear. As a pastor, I’ve been blessed to witness the final weeks of those who face what comes next with peace and confidence, embodying the verse, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
Since we are all terminal, facing death is an essential part of life. So, how is it possible to face death and not be afraid?
Lord, I long to love You more than life. But when I consider the people, I love and those who love me, I fear death. Show me why I can release this fear and embrace the expectation of eternity instead. Amen.