We seem to be inundated now with books about death -- and about how great it is. I assume that this is part of the aging of the baby boomers I remember Why are people afraid of death quipping that we'd know the end of the baby boom had come when we started to see designer funeral parlors.
Now we have doctors and neuroscientists and four-year olds claiming to have visited heaven. I do get a bit suspicious when visions of heaven are exactly what we humans expect my favorite quote Why are people afraid of death monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton: Suddenly it hit me: Why are we going to these young people for advice about how to handle our own mortality?
If I were interested in how kids feel about going to college, I would interview high school seniors.
If I wanted to know about planning for parenthood, I'd ask young couples thinking about having a child. So if we want to know how to prepare for inevitable death, why not ask the people who are almost there?
Bingo -- old people.
In our project that collected life wisdom from over of the oldest Americans, one thing I knew I wanted to ask them about was death. Yes, I confess that the whole death thing is pretty troubling to me -- that one event you just can't get out of.
Why are people afraid of death course I'm not alone: If anyone should experience this kind of terror, it's the very old. They are, after all, statistically much closer to the end of life than those of us under No matter how healthy or active they may be today, they are genuinely at death's door or at least on the front steps.
So I decided to bite the bullet, look 80, 90, and year olds in the eye, and ask them: What are your feelings about the end Why are people afraid of death life? One question repeatedly entered my mind while listening to the interviews: Because what the elders told me is that the intense, overpowering fear of dying is very much a young person's game.
I did not detect denial from these elders but rather a matter-of-fact approach to dying and a willingness to discuss it and what it means. The vast majority of our respondents described themselves as not thinking about death much, and much less so than when they were younger.
It's true, by the way, that research shows lower death anxiety with advancing age.
Nevertheless, I wasn't prepared for the comfort level most of the elders expressed about their own deaths. Here's how some them talked about their own mortality. Edwina Elbert embodied what I learned is a common attitude of the elders toward the end of life: Edwina is a warm, witty, and very open ninety-four-year-old. Her brushes Why are people afraid of death a serious accident and an illness have led her to reflect on the end of life and what it means.
It has made me realize that there's always that question of why nobody knows where we go. Well, there must be a reason for that. We'll never know because that's a mystery. I know about as much about it as the most learned men in the world, I would imagine. Because nobody really knows what happens to you.
But I am very Why are people afraid of death. I'm not afraid to die. Being near to death impacted me greatly, to be honest, and I don't talk about it. It's something that's very personal. But I'm a better person for it. I do wonder -- I think God must be saving me for something and I can't figure out what it is. Maybe I'll know someday when I'm But about dying, I'm not one bit afraid.
Well, if you stop to think about it, it's a natural thing.
Whether we come back or not or what happens there, I don't know. But it's like my husband used to say whenever we did discuss it: But if you go to sleep, what's wrong with that?
As you might expect, deeply religious elders found their beliefs to be comforting as they contemplated the end of life. Rosemary Brewster, ninety, is a regular churchgoer and has been all her life.
When asked, "Do you believe in life after death? I think and I wonder if there really is. And I'm going to find out. I wouldn't bother worrying about it too much, because I'm going to find out.
But, you know, when you're younger you Why are people afraid of death to bed and you think about death, and "Oh my God!
Now that I'm old, I'm at peace when I go to bed. I figure if I don't wake up, well, maybe I'll be someplace nicer. It's just a funny thing.
I used to be scared to go sleep when I wasn't feeling good, but not anymore. I'm not ready to die or anything like that, but I'm just not afraid to die. I think there's something on the other side, and I've got some sisters over there who will be waiting for me.
I'm not worried at all. And that's something I didn't think I'd ever come to terms with. I would like to dispel the notion, however, that it's just religious people who shed Why are people afraid of death intense fear of dying as they grow older.
I found the same kind of matter-of-fact comfortableness with life's end among elders who were vehement nonbelievers.
If there ever was an urbane New York intellectual, it is Trudy. A highly self-aware, analytical individual with a vast range of life experience, Trudy is adamantly not religious.
My mother and her mother came from a religious family. But my father did not believe in religion and so we did not grow up with religion.