A post from Lee Dennis
A dear friend of mine was killed in a cycling accident a few weeks ago. Since then, I’ve noticed that an interesting thing has happened.
My entire life, I have struggled with an overwhelming dread of death. This dread suffused my waking moments, worming its way into perfectly pleasant scenarios with its dark clouds. I would wind myself up like a snake consuming its own tail, pointlessly fearing a natural phenomenon that, as yet, no carbon-based life form has ever been able to evade.
Fear of death is natural. It represents the ultimate end, and the idea of ceasing to exist affronts us, both on an egotistical level and on a metaphysical level. How can this be, we wonder, how can we just…disappear? And how will we know how it all turns out?
Some of us take comfort in religion. Others reject the notion of heaven and gods and meditate on the circular nature of life and death, the endless breaking down and reforming of atoms, the beautiful symbiosis of life on Earth. But behind these two very different methods of accepting death, a background hum of anxiety remains. Will I be brave enough to say goodbye when the time comes, we wonder anxiously.
Zara did not know what was coming that day; she had no chance to reconcile herself with events, perhaps barely any knowledge of them. It is this simple fact that has re-shaped my reaction to my own mortality, and removed the oily film of fear from it. I had the realisation that it is unwise to spend time brooding on one’s own death – and so often we imagine ourselves bent, grey and lined when called to contemplate the end of our lives; this is the ego attempting to protect us from reality by implying it’s so VERY far away, surely. And yet, Zara was only 26, in good health and not a likely candidate for this most difficult of human experiences at all.
I have realised that each day is valuable and there are no guarantees. I have stopped worrying about the advancement of years and what this ultimately represents because I have seen that the random nature of our reality can change everything, in an instant, and beyond recognition. I am no longer afraid to die – and here I freely admit that my logic makes no sense – because if Zara was brave enough to face this ultimate transition, so too must I be.
If there is anything positive to take away from any of this, surely this must count as something.