We need to be able to talk about the facts of life, and of death, which is normal and natural, but not pleasant to experience. On the one hand we might wish to know nothing about it, to be oblivious, on the other hand those who have looked more closely see a need to say goodbye, to be aware of drifting away - to die conscious, if possible, and yet not overwhelmed by pain. The hospice movement has done much work.

Ordinarily death is just that, ordinary. Sometimes it can be a blessed release from suffering. Only sometimes is death a tragedy, which we recognise when a young talented and hard-working person dies, or someone especially gifted, the parent of young children, or when death occurs in unusual circumstances. Perhaps the person was loved by many, or perhaps they left many problems unresolved. Suicide is almost always tragic. 

To be dead: Some people have a belief in an afterlife, or in reincarnation. Others believe that we simply cease to exist, that before conception and after death, we have no being. Many may wish to leave a legacy, to filter out from the many things of life some portions that can remain and make a firm basis of life for those who come after us.

To leave our affairs in order: This used to be the custom when people felt death approach - to say goodbye, reconcile quarrels, tidy belongings, make a will and ensure people knew where it was, pay off debts and make funeral arrangements. This eases the sadness of those left behind.

All these themes are explored in The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy.

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Video: What dying patients taught this doctor about the fear of death | Fahad Saeed | TEDxRochester

Dr. Fahad Saeed, MD, has a very gentle manner yet speaks about exceptionally difficult subjects. This is a very powerful video, and only 15 minutes long. A talk delivered in 2019 that has suddenly become relevant in a way he could not have foreseen.

Dr Saeed talks about the difficult choices facing a seriously ill patient, when an individual caught between the fear of death and the desire for life will often chose burdensome treatments that are unlikely to prolong their survival or improve their quality of life in a meaningful way.


He goes on to say that people who die well know what living means and know who they live for, and concludes:


‘Give yourself permission not to live a life filled with fear. Live a life full of love and a sense of purpose.