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Death and Me

Updated on August 13, 2017

To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

Hamlet 3/1 – William Shakespeare

Death terrifies me both as a concept and as a fact, but I've never garnered enough self control to stop thinking about its inevitability, and I've never quite mastered the art of mentally letting go and accepting it.

Occasionally, I hope to cease to be afraid to die, to experience a thorough brainwash and wake up accepting the nothingness to come, whenever it may come. Moments of weakness, I could call them.

When it comes right down to the truth of the matter, I'm not so terrified that I wish for a brain wash, nor so petrified by the notion of becoming nothing that I seek something to bring me peace of mind. In all honesty, these eerie thoughts are the best prompts to carry on with the business of living, make the most of it, as they say, and be profoundly happy while doing so.

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.

Traveler, your footsteps are
the way and nothing more.
Traveler, there is not a way
the way is made by walking.

Proverbs and songs – Antonio Machado

The Nothingness Effect

The absolute finite nature of life and my personal belief that this is it is the most liberating feeling. I'm an accident that is here for no reason and for no purpose, hence vanishing is unimportant, too. Everything is absolutely meaningless, reasons and purposes, except what I choose to make meaningful. I am to freely trace my own path into the timeless nothing that will surely come, all the while being certain that the void is what awaits at the end of the road.

How can that not be liberating? How can that not be a reason for tranquility and joy that I'm lucky to experience this wonderful, unique and absolutely finite event that we call living? How can that not help overcome the terror of vanishing, some day, like dust in the wind? How can vanishing possibly matter more than being here, short and temporary as it may be?

The Inescapable Essence of the Void

Sometimes, however, in the cold accuracy of the night I'm stuck with this irrational fear of dying, of becoming nothing, and that incontrollable and disturbing anguish pulls at the strings of my consciousness and makes me wish, as irrationally as my fearing death, to be alive forever. I don't want to lose my grip on life, and the certainty that I will is too much to bear and too disturbing to consider.

Those times I'm equally inclined to contemplate my last breath and my last word on earth as I am to get out bed and turn on TV for some mindless distraction. Experience tells me, though, that there is no mindless distraction, no respite, when the full weight of dying is on my mind. I know I can't tell myself little white lies that I'll never be able to believe to put my mind at ease.

Those times, I know that I need to take a hard look within to analyze what I really fear, what really keeps me awake. It doesn't matter that I've gone through this process thousands of times since I was a little girl, it doesn't matter that I know the answer to my irrational terror, I still and every time need to profoundly look at its root to be able to overcome it, it's a demon I have to face every so often.

Those times, I admit to myself that as liberating as the effect of nothingness is, as much as I rely on its certainty to make of my life what I want, when I want, how I want, it is equally imprisoning and paralyzing to face the void of nothing at the end of the road. The void and the senselessness of knowing I'm a speck in a universe that doesn't need me to continue existing is the root of the panic that grips me. The reality that everything will go on when I don't is what anguishes me.

To Die, to Sleep; To Sleep, Perchance to Dream.

There are no dreams in the void, and thoughts of the void don't bring forth dreams but nightmares. Still, in this knowledge, I find a peacefulness that helps me go back to sleep, knowing all the while that some day it will be my last night, my last dream, my last fear.

There is a measure of comfort in acknowledging that I won't always be afraid of death because one day I'll simply be dead; there is no fear in the nothingness, there is nothing in the nothing.

© 2009 Elena.


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    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      Hi, Jesicab -- Yep, Jesus went just like we all will, I just doubt he ever made a comeback, and I most certainly don't expect to come back myself :-) I may cease to be afraid at some point, maybe when I'm satisfied with what I've done with my life and have resigned myself to go. That day is yet to come, though :-)

    • jessicab profile image

      jessicab 8 years ago from Alabama

      Just be strong and just remember some people do not know they are dead or going to die butsome lie in a hospital bed knowing. Find comfort in knowing we all have to go someday and Jesus did so. Very interesting hub.

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      I do think so, Elena, that it's a matter of being in a place in one's life. I know that I am not in my mother's place...but some day I could be. She's a good guide. She's made peace with the way she's led her life, and I'd like to do the same. I think you and I will both come to that. But not yet! There's so much more angst on the horizon.

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      Hello, Jaspal, very nice quotes, specially the first :-) I could say I worry with cause and fear with reason, but that's because of my beliefs --or lack of thereof, really. Thanks much por commenting and giving me a nice start to this fine morning!

    • Jaspal profile image

      Jaspal 8 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Great hub, though I differ in my view of death which is influenced by the philosophy of most Eastern religions (Hinduism, Budhism, Sikhism ....) Two quotes from the Gita may be relevant:

      "Why do you worry without cause? Whom do you fear without reason? Who can kill you? The soul is neither born, nor does it die."


      "Change is the law of the universe. What you think of as death, is indeed life. In one instance you can be a millionaire, and in the other instance you can be steeped in poverty. Yours and mine, big and small - erase these ideas from your mind. Then everything is yours and you belong to everyone ... This body is not yours, neither are you of the body. The body is made of fire, water, air, earth and ether, and will disappear into these elements. But the soul is permanent - so who are you?"

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      Hi, deWriterMD - Here's the catch: I don't think death is a transition, to me it's the end. Or, I can accept it as a transition into dust or universal energy, which may be a little nicer than saying death is a transition into nothingness :-) Not that calling "ceasing to exist" by any other name gives me much peace of mind, but I admit that "abyss of no return", "another natural state of being", "becoming energy" all sound slightly chirpier that "becoming nothing"! Or do they? :-) Thanks for your comment!

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      Hi, Sally. There have been a few comments to that regard -- it's possible that when the time comes one feels ready, no fears, no questions, just readiness. It may be very true, I just won't know until the time comes, or until I've lived enough to overcome the fears and questions. I suppose it all amounts to being at a certain place in one's life, as you mother is now, don't you think?

    • deWriterMD profile image

      deWriterMD 8 years ago from Metro DC

      I'm not sure you've heard of Seth, as channeled by Jane Roberts in the 70s, but there's a great quote I'd like to share with you. When asked about what it's like to be the 'other side' be dead, he responded, "You're as dead now as you'll ever be!"

      This is not to say that we should completely dismiss the fact of the body dying; however, equally true, we need not fear that which is only a transition...not to some abyss of no return, but to another state of our natural being.

      Hope that helps, Debi

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      All things come in time. My mother has a view of death I wish I had, but I'd have to go through her experiences, meaning her maturity, first...she's watched so many of her friends and relatives die, not from a distance, but from being there, taking care of them, giving them herself. She's watched them go from here to there, holding their hands.

      She doesn't look at this passage as anything but what was intended from the moment of conception. It's a natural progression. For her, there is no fear, neither is there any question.

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      Hi, Linda! Therapeutic, to me is the effect of talking openly about these things, there is something to be said about facing one's demons.

      You may be right, maybe when I'm ready to go I'll just be ready to go, no fear or no nonsense. I don't know, it's difficult to say, but then again it's entirely possible. I just can't envision that I'll be kicking and screaming IT'S NOT FAIR on my deathbed! Or maybe I will!! ARGHH :-) And yes, let's dance as if no one was watching!

    • profile image

      Linda Myshrall 8 years ago

      Hola Elena! Your hubs are almost... therapeutic. You are never afraid (or don't seem to be) to write about the things most of us don't want to go anywhere near- especially this. I, too, lay awake at night and wonder about my last moments, and I've considered the notion that it is because I am not ready. There's just more to see, to do, to experience. I have heard that when you are ready, you feel ready and completely free of all of this. I don't know. For now, as they say, let's dance like we think no one can see us ;)

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      Yes, Pollyannala, I would expect it's very satisfying to lay your worries to rest in a belief... it just won't do for me. I won't begrudge you your faith, just don't think that my accepting you have it, and have a right to it, means that I share it in the least. I don't, and won't. To each their own, as they say. Voila.

    • Pollyannalana profile image

      Pollyannalana 8 years ago from US

      Thank you, when I realized it was true and let the holy spirit in I walked a foot off the ground for quite awhile. There is nothing like it, to lay all your worries in the arms of Jesus. I hope to see you grinning with me on the way, honestly. Jesus does love you.

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      Cris, the "leaving behind" hurts just to think of. And even more difficult is "what I'll miss". I haven't yet reached a point when I ever thought I'm ok to go.... Ay amigo mio, here's a BESO to dispel the yuuuuyuuuu.

      Pollyannalana, hello! It's nice for you to have the comfort of your beliefs :-) I don't share them but appreciate how they can bring peace, indeed. I admit, the image of meeting Jesus up in the air made me grin!

    • Pollyannalana profile image

      Pollyannalana 8 years ago from US

      Maybe everyone goes through this at some point in their life, I did, only in my 20's and how I came out of it I think was to accept it, it will happen and I have no fear, but my peace came with 'to be absent from this world is to be present with the Lord" and I love the word in the bible that say all will not die but be changed in the twinkling of an eye, from physical to spiritual up to meet Jesus in the air. Wouldn't that be wonderful? I am hopingto be one of the lucky but if not Jesus has defeated the sting of death so I have no fear, I just believe.

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 8 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      I have realized that I no longer fear death. There are even times that I'm in that frame of mind where I can say, yes, I am okay to go (and it's not like I'm wishing it). More than fearing the end or the nothingness that "should" come after, it's the "leaving behind" that encapsulates my heart.

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 8 years ago from UK

      Hi Elena, I wonder if the fear of death is a little like not wishing to come to the end of a favourite book. The nearer we get to the last chapter, the more we want to know how it will all end, and also, will there be a sequel? Life is a precious gift and it's ours to enjoy while we may. Don't worry about what comes next, because that will just unfold as naturally as the setting sun.

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      I think you're right, bingskee -- I think if you've done the things you wanted to do you may be more at peace when the time comes. But how to manage the day-to-day fear, when you are still in the process of doing those things? Ahhh. I agree, though, mind conditioning (or training) may help diminish the fear. To me, thinking about death and talking about it certainly helped me overcome some the panic I felt when I was a kiddo.

    • bingskee profile image

      bingskee 8 years ago from Quezon City, Philippines

      being not able to know what lies ahead always give that feeling of fear though to some it is excitement. it would be hypocritical to say that we should not be affected of the thought of dying. i believe that the thought had strayed the minds of each creation born in this world.

      i think the process of being able to accept this inevitability is to condition the mind. ways may differ from one to another. to think that you have done what you desired in living can help diminish the fear is one example.

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      Sounds pretty good, Feline! Now if I could make myself belive half of it! Laugh!

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 8 years ago

      Elena, Hindus have been conditioned to believe that we go on and on, being reborn again and again till we finally achieve nirvana and are one with the One...and apparently most of us take a looooong time to get there! Sounds good? :)

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      No, I don't think the K guy would hold a grudge... his name is quite a mounthful! Laugh!

      And yeah, I'm a Sartre fan -- ironically the book from him that totally sold me was "The Words", not his exceedingly famous "Being and Nothingness" (much apropo here, by the way) or "Nausea" :-) Thanks for the visit!

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 8 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Hi, Elena-I see you're a 'Sartre person' up there in the comments...I minored in Philosophy and loved the existentialists, particularly Kieerkegaard. (I just know I mutilated the spelling, but I don't think he'd care!)

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      Thanks, Ethel! The how can be intimidating, there are some conditions that sound worse than death itself. As to the when, oh my, that *is* a terrifying notion to think about.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Well although I know what you mean I am more frightened as to how and when I depart this world.

      Wonderfully written hub though

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      Well, Cindy, here's to the best of luck for you to actually see something! :D

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      Alekhouse, I was even afraid to talk about it, as if uttering the word would bring it on or something, it really gave me the shivers. But I found out that the more I faced it and the more I thought about it, the less ominous it became. As you can see with this hub, I'vecome a long way!

      I don't know about being afraid to die equaling being afraid to live. I suppose for some people it may be true, as those individuals won't see death as anything but part of life, and then it wouldn't be something to be afraid of, simply part of living?

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 8 years ago from Cape Town

      I can't wait to die to see what happens next

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 8 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Although I too am afraid of death; of even talking about it, I did enjoy your hub...very thought provoking. I know I have to face the inevitable, but it gives me anxiety to think about it.

      I don't agree with Teresa when she says: "People who are scared of death are scared of living." I've never been afraid of living. Being a risk-taker I have had a very full life, with experiences that most people would have shyed away from. I think the more you are into life and love it, the more you will fear death.

    • wandererh profile image

      David Lim 8 years ago from Singapore

      Awww, you just made my day. :)

      Anyway, when I get to the other side, I will be sure to look you up and we can have a beer then. :)

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      We can hope Janetta, we can hope, but I find it hard to imagine being excited about death :-) Unless, maybe, if I'm very sick and suffering a terrible pain. Oi, what thoughts for Monday morning! Besos to you!

      wandererh – Actually, thinking "if there is nothing on the other side, then you won't know the difference." is what saves me from myself and my wandering thoughts! Truth of the matter, we can't know whether there is anything or nothing, but personally I think there's nothing, and that makes me an existentialist of the highest order :-) I know we're very far apart, but that doesn't prevent me from thinking you would be a very nice debating partner :-)

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      loua, I agree with "motive and intent of life is found in the I, me, myself". Don't you think though that there may be meaning to a life story not told in full? Maybe it's not full, but ever minute counts, in fact lie is made of minutes, one after the other. If a bus rolls over me today, I think my life can be told, and it can also be told if I'm still around tonight. The telling will be different, however, if others tell it, because of what we agree with in the beginning. Motive and purpose is found in the I. I appreciate the profound comment!

      Teresa, hola! I was feeling in that philosophic mood that strikes every once in a while :-) Lovely comment, My Way could be playing in the background and it would befit your words :-)

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      Violet, I like your approach – becoming energy sounds a lot more positive than becoming nothing! I'm with you about the POOF :-) May we go just like that, one minute here and the next not, I think one of the worst aspects of thinking about death is associating it to a long suffering.

    • wandererh profile image

      David Lim 8 years ago from Singapore

      Actually, shouldn't death be something to look forward to? It represents a graduation of sorts from this earthly plane and if there is nothing on the other side, then you won't know the difference. But if there is something, then it is a whole new world to explore, a little like being born again. I think you will like that. :)

      Would take you up on the beer except that we are separated by thousands of miles. :(

    • profile image

      Janetta 8 years ago

      wow. very heavy Miss E ;) Death scares the bejeezus out of me too. My own death and the deaths of those I care about is freakin scary stuff! :( I'm right there with ya. Hopefully when that time comes (a looong looong time from now) we'll no longer be scared but excited or something!! *hugs sweetie*

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 8 years ago from The Other Bangor

      What a lovely philosophical hub. I like living in the moment, and this is a happy moment to live in, despite all my financial woes. The end? Death? A wonderful sleep, whenever it comes. People who are scared of death are scared of living. After all, there is nothing in the nothing!

    • loua profile image

      loua 8 years ago from Elsewhere, visiting Earth ~ the segregated community planet

      Purpose, motive and intent of life is found in the I, me and myself of our being existence spirit that provides a happy life experience; it can not be defined till the end at death when the story is told in full... The pangs of conscience (fear) is the identity of the soul making and prompting its statement of self as the will we execute to challenge our beliefs... Death is but a pause in thought before thought's response in kind to its own question that its thought created...... We are but the thought answer of past generations... As one thinks so goes the future... Understand existence has no death as our thought defines existence... Life is and expression of existence as an organism animation...

    • VioletSun profile image

      VioletSun 8 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      Interesting musings on this Sunday morn! My favorite topic. I think the purpose of life is the meaning we give it, and for the experience. Since everything is energy which is a scientific fact, I do believe I will be more than nothing when I die, another expression of energy. However, I am also afraid at the thought of my death, not so much the death itself, but the cause. Hope its quick, like going to sleep and poof, I am dancing and enjoying myself as rays of energy or the like. LOL.

      Just my thoughts. :)

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      You have a point, wandererh, bothering about something usually means that it has some sort of meaning. It does indeed, the meaning one chooses in one's head -- I don't think there is any other "bigger" meaning, and I don't think there's any purpose either, outside the design of one's rationale.

      I've the feeling that having a beer while discussing these matters with you would have quite a bit of meaning to me :-)

    • wandererh profile image

      David Lim 8 years ago from Singapore

      If you feel that we are here by accident, and that there is no purpose or design in our existence, and that with death comes an endless void, then why are you bothering with living?

      The fact that you are bothering with the pain and pleasures of life, and even took the trouble to write a pretty good hub, perhaps betrays a belief that this life is not so meaningless or purposeless?

      Just my 2 cents. :)

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      Hello, Frieda! Quite a parting from my love letters, eh? I'm not done with living yet, either, and I wonder if I'll ever be done, that's my problem!

      J Rosewater, 'course I've read Nietzche but I'm more a Sartre type of girl, what do you know :-)

    • J  Rosewater profile image

      J Rosewater 8 years ago from Australia

      I see you have been reading Nietzche. Or if you haven't perhaps you might like to look for some of his stuff. (See? I'm here again.)

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 8 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Quite thought provoking this Sunday morning, Elena. Simply put I'm afraid of dying because I have not yet finished living. I'm obsessed with living, actually, as banal a life as it may seem to others, I rather enjoy it and think about living all the time. Yes, one day I won't be afraid of dying, either because I'll simply be ready, or because I'll be dead.


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