FEAR OF DEATH – “Isn’t Life Forever?”
We all know that life is not forever, but we do not want to think about it. We know we are going to die at some time in the future, but do not mention it. As we get older or sicker, we ask doctors to predict when we might die or “How much longer do I have!”
This is not rare, it is not unusual and you are not abnormal if you are concerned or if you ignore this area of conversation. Death is the greatest unknown and unknowns are an area we fear. (That is human nature.) How we act about this is something we need to discuss.
In our youth we have no concept of death and usually think we are invulnerable. We do things on our skate boards, bikes, and later in our cars as if we could never be hurt. We use our body in these early years as if we were immortal. But, as we age, and as we face the deaths of loved ones such as our grandparents and eventually our parents, we are faced with the greater reality.
Every patient in the doctor’s office needs to know they are fighting a battle they are going to lose. What they need to understand is that they play a very important role in how soon the end of life might come and not just leaving it to “luck” or their genes. And definitely not expect medicine to create a new drug to cure death! There are few people known who live beyond 100. They might live to 115-120 or a little longer, very few. Yet science says we should be living to 120-150… and that is all of us, not just a lucky few.
In religious history there were individuals who lived much longer, but this is not a religious expression. We are talking about the world we know, and that world has a life expectancy of less than 80 years, in other worlds a little over ½ of what we should be enjoying and not just 67, 74 or a lucky 85. There are “futurists” who believe we can make the body live to 200-300, but there is little evidence to prove that, only partial theories.
There was a cartoon in a magazine which showed a reporter with his microphone pressed towards a hospital bed where there laid an individual who was hooked up to all sorts of machines and was all wrinkled like a prune. The caption for the cartoon was. “What do you owe your longevity to, Mr. XXX?” That cartoon represents the way in which we approach health and longevity.
We are under the assumption we can live a long, long life with “technology!”, being plugged into different machines and being kept alive. There is a problem with this and that is what we are here to discuss. Life will end, hopefully not for many years, but it always ends. What is important is how we live and the QUALITY of life we have. We are so afraid of death sometimes we never live, and then when we get closer and closer to death we hang on so tightly we live in fear or total denial the last good moments we have.
There is a popular country song that says. “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to go NOW!” We are so afraid we listen to the “Snake Oil Salesmen” (This is all of the drug commercials that promise better life with their product.) What I am primarily talking about are the pharmaceutical companies that promise a better life, more sex, control of symptoms and all the promises you want to hear. Then comes the rest of the commercial when they talk real fast towards the end of their promises and unrealistic pitch as they tell you the product might also harm you, create other symptoms, or even kill you.
What needs to be understood when we are young is that what we do for ourselves then may well effect what life will be like when we are older. The more trauma in sports, the greater the damage to the joints, and the more apt you are to need a hip replacement or a knee replacement. The more we abuse our bodies the greater the development of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer as we get older.
It is hard to make the best decisions when we have reached a point our body can no longer function. Like the cartoon we get hooked up to dialysis machines to do the work of our kidneys that have been damaged by years of drugs that have been prescribed to us for one reason or another. Many of these conditions could have been prevented, but we chose not to listen to our parents, doctors and advice of those who knew we were doing things that was harming our bodies.
At some point each person is going to have to make some hard decisions for themselves, a spouse or other loved ones. Make sure you are making a decision that offers the best quality of life for the remaining time, even if it is less time than doctors might have been trying to sell you on. In a recent major magazine, on their front cover was this very question about the cost of dying. In that article nearly 2/3rds of a million dollars was spent over the last 10% of the subject life. After all of that, there was serious question as to whether or not there was any lengthening of his life. The end of life should not bankrupt the family and should not be prolonged for unrealistic expectations.
No one can answer these hard questions but those who are dealing with the challenge. The difficulty comes in a society that needs to spend more on prevention and not in just keeping a person alive by technology and drugs.
Hopefully we all have a level of faith that believes the unknown is better than the life in this world. It is that belief that helps most through these most difficult moments.