The Fear of Death

My maternal uncle had been suffering from cancer and passed away on 15th August. During the last days of his life, I observed one important aspect of human nature which made me analyze my opinion on it. The aspect was the innate, sometimes subconscious sometimes obvious fear of death. Having a terminally ill family member at home does cause an air of sadness and depression. But its interesting to see how others react to it. Another close relative; a well known surgeon, very rich & money minded person and my uncle’s neighbor, got affected by high blood pressure by all this. Apparently he was struck by the fear of death. After accumulating so much wealth all his life, he would have to let go of everything. That is a scary thought for all those who are deeply attached to their assets. The fear of death reminds me of a story I’d read in school books which illustrates that Fear is the real epidemic.

The Three Companions

Every year Cholera made a visit to the Holy City of Mecca with her companions Death and Fear. One year however, Fear came to the city before Death and Cholera. The old gatekeeper, who did not know Fear, let her enter.

When Cholera and Death arrived at the gate, the gatekeeper shouted,
“Cholera, how many victims will you take this time?”
“Not more than 500 I’m sure this time,” Cholera said.
“Death, how many will you take?” the gatekeeper cried.
“As always, I will take only what Cholera gives me.”
The gatekeeper let them enter.

Weeks later, Death and Cholera returned and called to the gatekeeper,
“Open the gates.”
“Cholera, how many victims did you take?” the gatekeeper asked.
“Only 499,” Cholera answered.
“And Death, how many did you take?” asked the gatekeeper
“I took more than a thousand.”
“You promised you’d only take what Cholera gave you!” the gatekeeper cried.
“Yes,” Death answered sadly, “Most of those who died were taken by Fear who entered your gate alone before us. Now you know that Fear does more harm and causes more deaths than Cholera!”

Now, the question is everyone knows death is inevitable and yet why people are so afraid of it? The fear stems from the attachment we develop to our worldly possessions and near and dear ones. No one knows exactly what happens after death. All the walking towards the light at the end of tunnel and concepts of heaven and hell are hypothetical and topics of theology and philosophy. I think the moment we die we lose consciousness of our existence, of our worldly ties, of people and pleasures left behind. So if I won’t know who is my child or even the fact that what does a child mean then why would I be sad about it? If I won’t know what is food or what is ice cream then why would I be sad that I would never again get to taste it? If I won’t know what is money then why would I be sad that I had to leave it all behind? But till the moment comes many people live in a perennial state of fear of death. Here is a stupendous message about life and death from the Upanishads.

Before death, life is a seeker.
After death, the same life becomes a dreamer.
Before death, life struggles and strives for Perfection.
After death, the same life rests
and enjoys the divine Bliss with the soul.
Before death, life is God’s Promise.
After death, life is God’s inner Assurance.
This Assurance of God’s we notice while we fulfill God in our future incarnation.

By: Sri Chinmoy Excerpt From: The Vedas, The Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita

Sudden death is another thing. But I feel death due to old age or some terminal illness should be faced with courage. We should complete our duties, slowly detach ourselves and prepare mentally for the inescapable. This leads to another interesting question that what are the things a person would do if he/she knew he/she is going to die on this date? If the date is suppose just two days away how would a person prioritize what to do? Would knowing the date make a person better prepared and accept death or still yearn for more days till the moment he/she dies? I guess it would be the latter option and that is why Death is what it is. The certainty of death makes living life to its fullest all the more important. Keeping in mind that everything material will be left behind after death is one thing and living each day in dread of death is another. The former will motivate us to be not so self-centered or miserly or uncaring while the latter will give us tension, panic and further health problems. Sometimes the dread is also created by the mental illusion of pain and change that we would have to go through when we are on our death beds. We need to realize the impermanence of human life and the reality of death by confronting our fears and overcoming them instead of being guided by them. We need to understand that the real enemy of Life is not Death but its Fear.

Writing on Fear of Death

Death is natural. Nothing natural can be detrimental. Death is rest. Rest is strength in disguise for a further adventure. At the present state of human evolution, to conquer Death may be an impossibility. But to overcome the fear of death is not only practicability, but inevitability. Death is normally the sign that the soul, under the particular circumstances, has exhausted the possibilities of its progress in a particular body.

by: Sri Chinmoy from: Eternity’s Breath

On a lighter note here is what Calvin has to say on the point of living.

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45 thoughts on “The Fear of Death

  1. Very good thought!!
    The story on the three companions has enlightened the major aspect of your article

    We had a lesson in our 11th grade… ‘Why fear, when we can all be together’ (or something like that! :P)

    The little girl in the tale, having developed a blood clot in her head due to a major ship disaster still hopes to live, as long as her family is with her!

    And Calvin, you rock! πŸ™‚

  2. interesting post..fear as you say is it…now the reason why fear works is cause we all know that nothing is permanent…so we leave ourselves open…the best way to deal with it is to face it….as for death interesting…after we die,we loose sense of everything,then why live at all? the thing is we can approach it in two ways i think…one is that nothing exists,the other is something exists….either way we are talking about something let it be something or nothing….So there should be something….i am just curious to try it out,whats that something…it won’t be nice if ppl don’t fear death,then earth won’t be earth,there won’t any destruction…which just means death is the illusion πŸ™‚ lol death is an illusion nothing else πŸ™‚

  3. Very thoughtful post Reema. People do not realize that they didnt bring anything to the world and will not take anything with them when they go. Look at politicians, what are they going to do with crores of rupees hidden in Swiss bank or under ground. Completely usesless! By the time when we become old, we have to become spiritual and release ourselves from the bonds of the material world.

  4. I’m very sorry for your loss… Death is always a difficult thing to deal with, and I found an apt quotation for this post:

    Pale death knocks with impartial foot at poor men’s hovels and king’s palaces.

    We are but mortal… Also, one more, just to bring a smile to your face:

    Death is a challenge. It tells us not to waste time… It tells us to tell each other right now that we love each other.

  5. So sorry to hear about your loss Reema. My condolences. It’s weird how we start referring to our loved ones as “Dead body”. Fear of death- You’re quite true about that. It’s a mystery that’s best left unraveled. I think about it quite often and never get an answer. We celebrate each birthday. One year closer to our death. πŸ™‚ Weird, huh?

  6. sorry to hear about your uncle! Death is inevitable, but to die before death is definately avoidable! Excellent post, as always! like the mecca story alot!

  7. Reema:

    An interesting and thought-provoking post.

    But as for those, who are struck by the fear of death, at the risk of sounding a tad crass, I am reminded of this:

    Particularly one line – yeh jeena bhi koi jeena hai, Lallu?

  8. If the mystery of death is cracked, then, i think, Man will start his first step towards winning over Nature. Its better that it doesn’t happen. May your Uncle’s soul Rest In Peace.

  9. Thoughtful post. However I think people fear death for other reasons too…because they want to do a lot with their life and there is so little time! At least I feel that way. Although I don’t fear death, I certainly don’t want to die anytime soon! Also another thing which I fear is a lingering death. I would not like to be dependent on anyone when I am dying. Not that I think much of this, but your post set me thinking!

  10. @Reema
    My deepest condolences to the loss in your family. AMAZING post! Something actually flashed in my mind while reading this post. It is something that I have been trying to tell people for the past 3 years of my life.

    Live life like there is no tomorrow!

    Kudos! To a wonderful post! πŸ™‚

  11. sad to hear this..may his soul rest in peace…
    nicely written..
    the fear is indeed is in every one’s mind..best is to do ignore the thoughts and do something useful something that we like ,till we are alive..

  12. Life & Death… Death & Life.. Which comes before what is an eternal quest! Fear, I’ve read, creates life… There are families who do not want their physically malnourished child to live alone after their death, and in the hope to have another child who will support the first, fear overcomes, and they have another abnormal child to take care of… I think hope crucifies in ways that fear cannot.. Eventually, life & death is in the way somewhere..

    But, Calvin! Now, he’s the man!!! He has the answers to every question.. Not a day goes by without looking into his eyes with hope.. Not a day goes by without wishing I was a cartoon instead of a human! I mean, these cartoon dudes live for eternity.. literally!!! πŸ™‚

    Nice blog you got going here.. πŸ™‚

  13. one more…a very thoughtful blog from u reema..and a very scary one though!!! but sometimes its good to fear about death..bcos then that fear helps us to fulfill all our dreams, ambitions before our last sleep!

  14. The fear of death comes from seeing someone die in front of your eyes. Some people fear for their wealth while some fear for their near ones. Cancer is one disease where you see someone dying slowly and slowly. Its the worst form of death according to me. Both my Grandparents had very slow deaths. I saw them dying everyday and believe me, during the final days, we were actually praying to God to take them away so that they get rid of the pain.
    Death is a truth which is very hard to digest.

  15. @Prarthana Welcome to my blog! Thanks. Keep visiting!

    @Vishesh Interesting view point!

    @Dinesh Quite true! All stays behind and the soul moves on.

    @Nikhil Very good quotations. 2nd one did bring a smile to my face πŸ™‚

    @Ruhi yes that is really weird..we rejoice but actually we get nearer to death.

    @Nova Thanks

    @Taju But the promised good life after death depends on the good work done in life. πŸ™‚

  16. @Sakhi Thanks dear.

    @Chakoli Will do the tag soon πŸ™‚

    @Shefaly Thanks. I’d laughed a lot when I watched Mr.Natwarlal as a child. The movie had just tickled my funny bone somehow back then.

    @Harsha yes Death still remains unconquerable and its best if it remains so. Thanks.

    @Joel Thanks.

    @Nita True. That is also one of the reasons I guess for fearing Death. I too fear lingering death..there is nothing more painful than a slow death. Its better to be over with it in one flash. πŸ™‚

    @Vimal My earlier theme was giving problem on small size monitors (14 inch). I hope now u r able to read my posts.

  17. @Dev Thanks.

    @Pavan I’m glad u liked my post so much.

    @Sakhi Hope u r able to read my posts now.

    @Sandeep Shhhh! Trade secret!

    @Arvind yes thats exactly the point.

    @Nikhil Thanks dear!!

    @Aparna Welcome to my blog! Interesting view on hope. I think hope and fate work together. We may hope to get something but we get what we deserve or have it in our fate. U wanna be a cartoon? πŸ˜€ Thanks dear. Keep visiting.

    @Swathi Thanks. yes sometimes fear works constructively. If it wasnt for the fear of exams we would never study!

    @Amit I’m so sorry to hear that. May their souls rest in peace.

  18. I read so much of Gita and follow one rule explicitly that is attachment with detachment.Fear of death comes because of attacment either to material possesions or people.I dont fear that if i die what will happen to my kids….a very common thought……because i know this whole world is looked after god only we are the hands only who work under his guidance. Do what is good and right and true, perform your duties and enjoy ur life and leave the rest to god:) hey easier said than done:)

  19. First time visitor to this blog, thanks to Nikhil. Surprisingly, being as unspiritualistic as I am, I could still relate to your post.

    My partner is one of those people who are scared by death. He has every right to do so as his health-situation is confounded by ailments. He is scared of death because he doesn’t want to lose me and our life together.

    Hence, I can vicariously feel the dread for death whilst not having any sort of feelings about my own death.

  20. Loved the post….I have heard people talking about how they want to die or how they don’t want to. What they want after death or what they don’t.

    But for me the simple fact is life is too short to plan about these things. Why do we need to think negative at all. Aren’t there enuff tensions to handle??? However prepared we might be death is something which hits us. So why spend life thinking about death.

    So in few words I nod my had and say I strongly agree with you.

  21. @Sandeep Curiosity killed the cat πŸ˜›

    @Renu Welcome to my blog! very good thought. but as u said easier said than done! Keep visiting!

    @Kris Welcome to my blog! I’m sorry to hear about your partner. The fear of loss of a partner is very scary and heartrending. Keep visiting!

    @Sakhi I got the header from a website which has many free header images.

    @Smita yes Live life like there is no tomorrow!!

  22. Seeing philosophical Reema here πŸ™‚

    If we knew the time, date and venue of our death then we would lead life worrying about death. πŸ˜€ Thankfully, we don’t know.

  23. Condolences! Death…well I have written many a time I wish I were dead than alive. Don’t know personally have no fear of death and times when I want that more than anything. Maybe I so want the life that you have quoted using the Upanishads. Yet, I am still here, existing.
    I guess the fear of death in many cases might be what it would do to people around you who care for you rather than your own departure- or so I have been told by a few when we had such discussions.
    Death is something that will come when it has to (reminded of a story we had back in school about how a man tries to run away to Samarra or some such place on seeing death and ends up still meeting his end there..). This from a person who has actually attempted to take her own life! whoa! did not think I could ever put this in writing! I better stop here πŸ™‚

  24. I wanted to ask a question and finding no answer.
    Let me ask you, Is Reality Pessimism?
    Answer if you want to, but by any means you think well and that is why you write well.
    Keep Writing.

  25. @Manasa I was myself surprised to see I could be so philosophical!! Just a phase πŸ˜€ Maybe knowing the date would make us live our lives in a better and planned way and not waste time on trivialities!!

    @Apar OMG!!! Are you serious?? Hope everything is fine now. Even if one doesnt fear death, it doesnt imply that one has the right to end one’s life prematurely. Death will be then an easy way out for them….but then the easy way is not always the right or the best way! Please do not do this to yourself again.

    @Tarun welcome to my blog. I did read ur post with same title and I agree that reality is not pessimism. Reality is what we must face and accept and take it in our stride and carry on with our lives. It should not make us pessimistic or lose hope. Thanks. Keep visiting!!

  26. I made a promise to myself that I would never think of it, but sometimes, situations are pretty excruciating!! Guess as long as I have my son with me, I will not do anything!! πŸ™‚ Don’t know about the right to end one’s life or not…have written quite a bit about this!!

  27. @Apar Yes I understand. I went through your blog and have subscribed to it. I hope U find the strength to overcome this bad phase of life and I hope better things lie ahead of u.

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