Death and Dying – Repost

I posted this exactly a year ago and am posting it again, as it echoes (or really, crystallises) so many of my thoughts now.

Father Richard John Neuhaus is apparently near death (again) himself [he died on 8 Jan. 2009], and as he lies in hospital, it seems well worth reading his wise and often amusing words on death, including his own near-death (or, as he says, ‘near-life’) experience, as they appeared in the Catholic magazine First Things in Feb. 2000.

A few excerpts:

Death is to be warded off by exercise, by healthy habits, by medical advances. What cannot be halted can be delayed, and what cannot forever be delayed can be denied. But all our progress and all our protest notwithstanding, the mortality rate holds steady at 100 percent.

Death is the most everyday of everyday things. It is not simply that thousands of people die every day, that thousands will die this day, although that too is true. Death is the warp and woof of existence in the ordinary, the quotidian, the way things are.”

“It is death in the singular that turns the problem of death into the catastrophe of death. Thus the lamentation of Dietrich von Hildebrand: ‘I am filled with disgust and emptiness over the rhythm of everyday life that goes relentlessly on — as though nothing had changed, as though I had not lost my precious beloved!‘”

“No doubt many people feel they have been helped by formal and informal therapies for bereavement and, if they feel they have been helped, they probably have been helped in some way that is not unimportant. Just being able to get through the day without cracking up is no little thing. But neither, one may suggest, is it the most important thing. …

“There is a time simply to be present to death — whether one’s own or that of others — without any felt urgencies about doing something about it or getting over it. … The worst thing is not the sorrow or the loss or the heartbreak. Worse is to be encountered by death and not to be changed by the encounter. There are pills we can take to get through the experience, but the danger is that we then do not go through the experience but around it.”

“Tentatively, I say, I began to think that I might live. It was not a particularly joyful prospect. Everything was shrouded by the thought of death, that I had almost died, that I may still die, that everyone and everything is dying. As much as I was grateful for all the calls and letters, I harbored a secret resentment. These friends who said they were thinking about me and praying for me all the time, I knew they also went shopping and visited their children and tended to their businesses, and there were long times when they were not thinking about me at all. More important, they were forgetting the primordial, overwhelming, indomitable fact: we are dying! Why weren’t they as crushingly impressed by that fact as I was?”

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One thought on “Death and Dying – Repost

  1. Hi
    I just thought I’d let you in on my after death experience, which happened when I was 11 or 12. I was swimming out to the floating dock, in lake Ramsy in a northern Ontario town in Canada. It was a lazy hot Sunday afternoon, the dock had 10 or 15 teenagers lounging about in the sun.
    I swallowed some water and began to chocke , and swallow water, I began yelling help, help,looking at the people on the dock, but no one responded. I’ll never forget the way they watched me, without moving a muscle as I went down for the third time
    I remember rising from my body with my hair waving, I looked at my body -without any thought in my head-with deep affection. After that I began to feel such euphoria, with sensation rising to a peak then reducing, as though I was riding a wave cresting then settling into a trough over and over again. All the while there were no thoughts in my head, I was in the arms or realm of a most peaceful place. The lifeguard from shore pulled me out, and after I came to and looked around, I remember saying the f word, so unhappy to have left my heavenly home.
    Later in life, just before waking, I suddenly was aware of 2, I can only describe them as looking like balls of static about the size of a 5 cent piece, they seemed to be conferring and looking at some micrroscopic element in my brain. My thought said wow and they immediately disappeared. The atmosphere was so so powerful that words cannot describe it with any accuracy. Within that atmosphere a tottaly different reality existed, that I wasn’t allowed to linger.
    This happened twice to me, I now believe they adjusting or
    rearranging something for my benefit as at that time my life was a mess. Now I believe you could call them angels.
    Happy New Year. ”
    I’ve seen the nations rise and fall, heard
    their stories heard them all, but love’s the only engine of survival” Leonard Canadian Cohen.

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