Talking about death

I find it upsetting when people avoid the subject of death. Manoevres such as the following seem to be common.
“I’d rather not talk about that just now. Maybe later.”
“I’d rather enjoy my life without spoiling it by thinking gloomy thoughts.” [Are they so gloomy? See below]
“Of course it’s important to talk about death, but I don’t think one should dwell on it.”
“There’s nothing we can do about it so why worry about it.”
Society does the same thing. Old people are shoved in old people homes to be forgotten about. Death is trivialized, villified and stereotyped in drama. Huge numbers of people never get to see a dead body until very late in life, if ever, because the whole thing is just swept under the carpet. People with terminal diseases are seen as strange terrifying beings because “they’re going to die” (i.e. everyone else is immortal). Just say the word “cancer” and most people tremble (me included). Skeletons are seen as a symbol of terror, even though everyone has one. As a child I was forbidden to look at the bodies of my grandparents and when my curiosity led me to buy some books about dying, my mother hid them.
Like love, death seems to be something that one instinctively knows about without needing to be told and perhaps which is a background to living. It is also an everyday thing in that the ending of the body is perhaps not so different to the many other endings and separations experienced.
I find that contemplation of death is far from a depressing thing – it seems to make me feel more peaceful. It gives me a sense of perspective on the seemingly important worries of life. Walking around a graveyard is very peaceful because there are no more exciting or terrifying possibilities there. Death in nature is not such a terrible thing. The leaves on the trees die every year and that is a beautiful and necessary spectacle.
And here’s another thought – the greatest fear for me seems to be annihilation of the person. The terror scenario is always me being crushed to a small point and the lights going out – the end of conscious existence. But this is a paradox. An end has to be experienced to be terrifying. But if it’s experienced, then I’m still conscious – so actually to experience the end of conscious life is impossible.

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