Firstly, congratulations on being an atheist at 13. You beat me by many years: I wasn’t a proper atheist until I was in my twenties or thirties.
Isn’t it a bit soon, though, for you to be thinking about death? But now you’ve started, you’ve got plenty of time to come to terms with your own mortality. Perhaps you could try to be a bit less intense about it, given that you’ve got the wonderful gift of living to enjoy for many, many years. And you are healthy; please make the most of your good health by looking after your body.
I once read an article by someone well-known, written just before he died. Although he did not allude to his forthcoming death, he said that he had never worried about things that he couldn’t change. Of course, we all wonder about things: what it would be like if we could fly like birds, or be someone else who we’re not. Similarly, it is not unreasonable to wonder what death would be like. But the important thing to grasp is that there is no escaping death – that we will all die cannot be changed. The trick then is to learn to accept it and you’ve got plenty of time to do just that.
You can start by observing very old people. They may be having wonderful lives but you will notice their increasing frailty, their slowness, awkwardness of movement and – sometimes – mental confusion. As their deterioration continues, there will come a time when they would want to go, perhaps to escape pain or just in te hrealisation that they will never regain their prized faculties. Meanwhile, why can’t you personally get all the joy you can from being alive now?
Death is a natural part of life but, when you are young, the end of your life should seem so very far away. Shouldn’t you really be concentrating on getting the most out of life, instead of being frightened? I’ve never much liked going to the dentist but I recognize that it’s necessary and I’ve come to accept the discomfort for my greater health. There are many things that you’ve been able to accept, too, no doubt. You’ve obviously accepted that you were born; being born and dying are part of the same process. It’s almost necessary that some things have to die so that others can be born and live.
I am at a time of my life when, because of my age and various complaints, I am prepared to drop off my perch any moment. It isn’t that I want to go; it’s more that I have accepted the relationship between life and death and I accept my death as inevitable. Of course, if I were in growing pain from an incurable illness I’d want some help to go. But having long ago spent time pondering the problem, I’m getting on with enjoying life; I hope you will, too.
Posted: May 6th 2014
See all questions answered by flagellant