Facing Death: the Great Divide

 

the-great-divide
The Great Divide (oil painting by Rose Wolfe)

 

Recently, I read an article wherein the author, who has lived with a chronic illness his entire life, was lamenting how he felt pressured to “put on a happy face.”  His main complaint focused on the inability of the people in his life who were reluctant to address the depression and dark moments that the chronically ill face, especially death.   The author was angry that he had no outlet to express his feelings.  Due to his chronic illness, he has spent long periods of time in hospitals.  As a result, he has met and lost friends.  Death is a strong, real presence in his world.  Now, he is facing a serious deterioration in his condition, and death cannot be ignored any longer.  In fact, I got the feeling that he doesn’t want to ignore the topic of dying.  He is angry, frustrated, and depressed.  Inasmuch as he is in a troubled state of mind, he extrapolated his feelings to include all chronically ill who are facing death.  He believes that anyone who chronically ill and at peace with death must be “faking it.”

Due to his chronic illness, he has spent long periods of time in hospitals.  As a result, he has met and lost friends.  Death is a strong, real presence in his world.  Now, he is facing a serious deterioration in his condition, and death cannot be ignored any longer.  In fact, I got the feeling that he doesn’t want to ignore the topic of dying.  He is angry, frustrated, and depressed.  Inasmuch as he is in a troubled state of mind, he extrapolated his feelings to include all chronically ill who are facing death.  He believes that anyone who is chronically ill and at peace with death must be “faking it.”

While I acknowledge that dark moments are part of the human psyche (chronically ill or not), not everyone fears death. Personally, I know of three people who were at peace with the inevitability of their death: my first husband, my niece, and a friend.  However, I have also watched others who faced death with anger, fear, and resentment.

There are at least two issues underlying the ranter’s anger:  (1) The perceived pressure to “put on a happy face” when the author would rather have talked about his impending death, and (2) the author’s assumption that everyone fears death.  In fact, the author went so far as to say that if the dying person was content with the situation, then they were faking it.  He said he hated those fakers.

I feel sorry for the author.  He is facing the end of his life, he is angry, and he can only see the world from his point of view.  To be at the end stage of your life and only see bleakness is a horrible way to spend your remaining days.  I am also sorry that he does not have the support that he needs.  (I wonder if the support is missing or if the support is not what he wants to hear.)  Many people do not want to talk about death and they do not want to be around angry people.  He might be in a Catch-22 situation.  No matter what the specifics of his situation, I wish there was something that could be done to help him.

My chronic illness puts me at risk for a stroke or sudden cardiac death.  Rather than churning my insides into a rancid soup of anger and hatred, I made the decision to be happy and do as much as I could for as long as I can.  One of my new mantras is Don’t Give Up – Ever.  I fear that the author has given up – on themselves and on others.  Hence, the Great Divide and why he can’t understand how people can choose a different approach.

If we were to meet one another on happenstance, I wonder how the author would react to my words?  Would he believe me that not everyone fears death?  The range of feelings surrounding death are as varied as there are people.  It is not a simple matter.  In truth, the way we feel about death has a lot to do with the way we feel about life.

The three people I mentioned at the beginning of this post (who were ready to face death) were Christians.  Whether or not you believe in God is not the point.  My point is that Christianity gives the believer hope about the future and strength to face the present.

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying.  All three people had to deal with pain, a slowly deteriorating body, and dark moments.  Still, spending time with them was a rewarding, enriching encounter.  The more that they released themselves to the passing, the more serene they were in spirit.  They had hope and a vision.

On the other hand, I have known people who did not have faith in God.  As they faced death, the angrier they became.  They spent their last days spewing hatred.  Their beliefs had a deep impact on their feelings and psyche.  Before you jump all over me, I know that there are people who do not believe in God but have passed away in peace.  Still, there is a Great Divide about facing death.

Is death an end or the beginning?

Published by

Rose Wolfe (Living Free with disAbilities)

Let's get to the elephant first: I have myotonic dystrophy which defines my physical limitations, but it does not define me. Without the distraction of physical activities, I have found my passions: (1) Encouraging others to live more fully with fun, faith, and hope; (2) finding freedom in oil painting; (3) writing about my experiences; and (4) encouraging others to live more passionately. It is my belief that every person lives with at least one disability - for impairments are not limited to those with chronic illnesses. Many neurotypical people are psychological architects who have constructed enclosures in which they trap themselves. Mindsets, attitudes, and perceptions are fluid realities. Many of us have forgotten that it is possible how to live beyond our disabilities. Life may have challenges but faith and hope are within reach. I have made my choice: I am LivingFreeWithdisAbilities.

24 thoughts on “Facing Death: the Great Divide”

  1. I believe that death of the body is the beginning of the ‘afterlife’ – whatever that may be. I cannot believe we don’t have souls.

    When my body stopped working like it used to and the severe chronic pain began I knew I had only two options – 1. Turn to alcohol and bitterness, or, 2. TRY to rise above it, to nurture myself and then I started baking and crafting. My fiance, John, was supportive. My animals gave me unconditional love. I had adapted. Though, of course, there are bad days. I also believe in the strength of prayer – more so now due to family estrangement.
    Love + hugs Rose
    🐻 💜 🌹

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am blessed as I work with elderly people, you could say most of them are aware they are living in the shadow of death, but it is a great place to work because they have a positive attitude to life – ‘you have to make the most of it.’

    Many of them have faced loss of their partner, some of them have lived through the dark days of the war, many of them are in chronic pain, often struggle to do tasks that take longer as they age. All of them get up each day, face the world and count themselves blessed. Hardly any of them have a faith in God but they embrace the flow of life in what ever form it takes.

    Illness is messy, it is heart wrenchingly humiliating and it is not easy to see our loved ones suffer. Friends and family find it easier to walk away and remember that person when the were vibrant and alive. This blog post you read, sounds as if this person is offloading all his negative bile and thank goodness he can express it far away from his friends and family. He is being real – naked and bare before the world, that is courage.

    We are all frightened, at times, of the darkness that is within us all, healthy and suffering. Afraid that if others see our darkness, our pain, we would be unlovable, so we smile, say we are ok, be nice, it is what society expects.

    Some do find comfort in faith – wether or not faith means people are more accepting is not really my experience, as it is a little simplistic. I would suggest that it is more about how we have lived our lives before we come to that point – as most of my experience is from the Elderly, most have lived a good full life and are happy to embrace it.

    As for me, well, it is the run up to death that I am concerned with, not death itself. I see it as going home – because this life is not our home but our classroom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad you shared your perspective. I think that your take on life has a lot to do with your take on death. What you believe affects you. You have a great heart. I am glad that you work with the elderly. My personal experience with death has ranged from very young to the elderly. My husband was 26, my niece was 25, and my friend was 72. Hugs to you. I am glad you are willing to add to my perspective.

      Like

  3. Thank you for sharing Rose and for raising this topic. A subject so few of us wish to discuss. You are so right. My late father feared death, it was heartbreaking, as I knew he could find a route to peace about it through faith…I prayed that he did reach out to God in quiet moments & just didn’t say. You are an inspiration in your beautiful work. Thank you. Xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great Post. I am one that is no longer afraid of death and if it happened tomorrow it is fine with me although I was spared many times from it so far. I can’t image what it would be like chronically ill at a hospital where warmth and freedoms are lacking. My heart goes out to that person.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It is an interesting discussion. I, personally, don’t believe in God and the idea of death (not only mine but my beloved one’s) terrifies me. It really does. Sometimes I wish I had a faith, that would help me sleep at nights.

    I am not egocentric enough to try to convince people of my beliefs, especially on something as important and big as the after life, but what I always try is to live my life – the one that I’ve got – as best as I can (and sometimes it is really hard!).

    Anyway, I am really glad I run into your blog! You certainly seem to have a good attitude towards life!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. No one likes to deal with depression let alone death. Having been a nurse for over 40 years, I’ve seen more of both than I ever wanted to.
    Thankfully, I have Jesus in my heart which takes away the fear of death–the unknown. It’s more of a translation–I’m here on earth one moment and the next, in heaven with Jesus.
    The dying part is what worries me a little. I’d like my death to peaceful and easy, preferably to go up into the clouds with Christ’s Second Coming. A quick and simple release from this life.
    My worry comes from having Myasthenia Gravis. That is a neuromuscular disease that affects the body’s voluntary muscles including the respiratory ones. Granted most of the time we don’t think about breathing. Our body takes care of it automatically, but we do have some control, like when we hold our breath under water. As the MG progresses it will affect my breathing muscles and I’ll have increased shortness of breath. Not a pleasant thought. I’ve taken care of patients who needed help breathing near their end time. The very first one I had was probably the hardest for me. I wanted to breathe for him.
    Preparing for death is fairly simple. You write out your will, select a couple hymns or other music you’d liked played at your funeral, write out a few comments or brief bio, and talk with your pastor about your plans. Make peace with your family and friends while you’re able. Most importantly, ask Jesus to forgive your sins and come into your heart.
    I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was 12 years old and have never regretted it. It’s been great having Jesus to talk to all these years. When no one else wants to listen He does. I’ve whined, complained bitterly, praised Him and even sang to God. I don’t think of myself as praying to an unknown deity, but more like talking to an old friend. He has been with me through some of life’s toughest times.
    I’ve tried to share Christ’s salvation with my patients, but I know I did not talk about it often enough. Once Jesus is in your heart, it’s easier to put on a ‘happy face.’ Those dark times will still sneak in. The devil doesn’t want you to be happy and joyful in the Lord.
    If you don’t know Jesus as your personal savior, I strongly encourage you to seek Him, ask Him to forgive your sins, and come into your heart. You will find Him to be a good friend. ~ Connie

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s unfortunate that the medical profession doesn’t recognize the psychological dimension of physical illness. If I had my way every treatment team would include a psychiatric consult as part of treatment.

    It sounds as if he’s angry at being forced to die on the cheap.

    Most of his friends have died, he has few supports and it sounds as if he has spent most of his life in and out of hospitals.

    Not everyone has the ability to ‘turn it over’ to God. Some people want answers, even if the answer is that there is no answer. And sometimes a good psychologist can help with that.

    Liked by 1 person

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