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 Blooming Stars

Realistic Acceptance of Death as an Inevitable End of Life

            Life is a gift; it is an unsolicited and unsought donation. Out of billions and billions of possible human beings in the womb of the cosmos we came out to be. Out of trillions and trillions of eggs and sperms, we happened to be the ones that got fertilized, became zygotes, underwent innumerable cell divisions, acquired the specific genetic markings, came to term, and were delivered. We were the unmanifested ones from eternity that got manifested. We got more and more determined and specified until we got defined, identified, and bound in time and place. Whether we were planned, wanted or unwanted, we were not fortunately miscarried or aborted. We are here now in this cosmic plan in our own right as gifts of creation and as children of the universe. Now we need to make death, the end of our earthly sojourn, a gift. That is where the saying what we are God’s gift to us, what we become is our gift to God becomes very significant.

            It is not that we had any choice about our life (birth); we do not have any choice about our death as to the time, place, or manner. Nonetheless, we can make many things work for us through our conscious choices rather than against us. Resisting or denying death that we cannot avoid or postpone can do us immense harm. That can waste our precious energy. The East is more accepting of death than the West. The West is considered to be more death-denying than the East. The data from my doctoral dissertation on Death Anxiety and Religious Belief comparing the cultures of East and West with regard to death anxiety also proved that. With the rapid westernization of the east, the scenario might change. We may want to cling onto life, even with the support of machines, by our own choice or through someone else’s diktat. It may be important to mention here that the Existentialistic School of Psychology considers anxiety related to death to be the root cause of all mental disorders (neurosis and psychosis).

            How do we accept death? Death is an unavoidable part of our life. An inconsolably grieving person over the death of his loved one is reported to have come to Buddha for solace and comfort. Buddha asked the person to get a pinch of salt from a home where no one died. So the person went to the village to obtain this kind of salt. He searched and searched but could not find a single home without someone dying. He worked through his grief without further assistance. We started dying after the moment we were born. That is the reality that we need to constantly live with. The reality of death needs to be part of our lived awareness and consciousness.

            Accepting things that we cannot change is a very important ingredient of the famous Serenity Prayer. When we accept the inevitability of death, we release energy in our being to live our life more fully. Then death is not an enemy to be abhorred but a helpful companion in dialogue to guide our life. Awareness of possible death at any time indicating the fragility of our existence can order our priorities and events in our life that we have control over. Then we can live the way we would like to die. That death will bring everything to an end, that we do not have an eternal home on this earth will teach us to store our treasures where moth and rust will not consume and where thieves will not break in and steal (Matthew 6, 21-22). The quality of our death is determined by the quality of our life. So let us live our life from the point of view of eternity of which our life is but a small slice.

 

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