Musings on the grim reaper March 30, 2018

Do we all know we’ll die?

I assumed that we do, however a colleague in an on-line forum seemed to think otherwise.  She felt that the knowledge (and/or perhaps the idea of death?) lies in the back of our minds.  I feel it does too, but why?  Why is it there?  Why isn’t it in the front of our minds? Why is it that we often don’t engage with death or think about death until it somehow touches us personally?  And why is it that generally (not always) it is something like this which often makes us not only notice death, but begin to pay attention to or perhaps contemplate death, not in a morbid way but in a way that enriches how we live our lives?

My research explores after death contact and the impact of that on the experient.  The literature terms these experiences, as amongst other definitions, “extraordinary” but for me they are ordinary and simply a part of life. When I was a child I first became aware of the fact that when people ‘died’ they didn’t really die because I could see them and interact with them.  But as I grew older, the vivacity of those experiences faded.  As I grew and found my place in the world responsibilities and duties overshadowed the vividness of the world I experienced as a child.  I forgot.

On a far grander scale, perhaps humanity’s history corresponds to the child just mentioned, and perhaps in the growth of that history in time, death has been forgotten, has fallen away from the front of the collective mind so to speak, so that now it sits in its recesses and can only be seen or remembered when life, through a death event, makes one remember.

I have always felt that death is somehow intimately linked to the intrinsic spirituality of an individual.  In what state do we want to die?  In what state do I want to die?  How do we want to enter the spiritual universe?  How do I want to enter the spiritual universe?  What do we want to take with us?  What do I want to take with me?  All we can take with us is what we’ve made of ourselves, nothing else, no letters after our names, no titles before them, nothing material, only what we are at that moment in time, only what I am at that moment in time.

I wonder if one of the reasons that we don’t talk about death may be because we have forgotten about it?  Perhaps in humanity’s past people understood why they were alive much better than they do today.  I have found that often, not always, but often, that a death-related event wakes a person up and propels them inward.  They become contemplative, they ponder, they ask meaningful questions and a psychospiritual shift appears to occur within them.  They wonder why they were born, what their purpose in life is, and whether or not there is an afterlife.

Whether we acknowledge it to ourselves or not, I feel that we do know that we die, we just don’t think about it.  And while that may be said, I feel that the real question is, “Why are we alive in the first place if only to die anyway?”  The answer in contained in the question.

Michele T Knight Written by:

Dr Michele Knight is a Social Worker, Social Scientist, researcher and independent scholar. Her interest and research in the end-of-life has its origin in the lived experiences of her own bereavements, her near-death and shared-death events, the returning deceased and attitudinal responses to those experiences. Since 2006, she has been extensively involved in community development, support and advocacy in both a professional and community services/voluntary capacity in the areas of bereavement and grief, hospital pastoral care, and academic lecturing/tutoring. Her PhD, Ways of Being: The alchemy of bereavement and communique, explores the lived experience of bereavement, grief, spirituality and unsought encounters with the returning deceased.

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