Yes I do realise this is a morbid topic. It's been a very long stressful, sad and tiring week for me and my family. We buried my Granddad of 85 years.
My Granddad knew he was not going to get any better for a long time and he was terrified at the prospect of death. But when he was taken back into hospital after a bad turn, he told us all that he was not afraid anymore. When he told my mother this she claims that she saw him looking up at the ceiling as if he "saw something". This was the day before he died.
My theory on this has always been that when a person is going through the prospect of dying that they perhaps learn to adapt to the realisation that they do not have much life left within them; and that this perhaps actives some sort of coping mechanism.
What is your theory on this matter?
I am so very sorry for your loss, Keith. My sympathy to you at the passing of your Granddad.
It's so hard to know what the process of dying is like. But, I am always amazed at the capacity that human beings have for, as you note, coping. People who have had near-death experiences report feeling a sense of well-being. Some even have said they were in contact with departed loved ones prior to being brought back from the brink. It may be that these are hallucinatory, are the mind's way of allowing us to accept the onset of death. I lost my mother last year. We cared for her at home. In the last 48 hours of her life, she was not asleep, or unconscious, but she was not with us, either. She didn't want anything on her. No clothing, not even any sheets--she kept pushing them aside. It was as if she was literally casting off the encumbrances of this life. She was in pain and ill, and ready to rest. Perhaps your granddad was, too.
If there is anything I have observed in many years of working with traumatized and mentally-ill people, it is that the capacity of human beings to find creative ways to adapt and cope with all manner of physical and mental atrocities and assaults is endless and amazing. It is one of the things I find most beautiful about us as a species. It would not be surprising if we developed a physiological and mental process that would allow us to accept that which we are biologically, emotionally, and physically conditioned to fight against with ever fiber of our beings, for most of our lives.
I am sometimes asked, when people find out that I am an atheist: Aren't you afraid of what will happen when you die? And I'm not, really. I think about everything I have seen and been through in this life. I see what my fellow humans endure and enjoy, and I can only think that whatever comes next, if anything at all...
Could it be any more beautiful or terrible than this?
Maybe that's what your granddad and my mom finally understood. That it was OK to let go. I hope his passing was easy and peaceful, and I hope you are able to grieve him and remember him fondly.
Peace to you and your family.
Thank you DoK,
I very much appreciate that. Yes I think I do actually very much agree with your view on this. Very interesting insights I must say. It is very amazing and beautiful that human beings have this capacity to cope with the traumatic prospect of death. Thank you for answering my question.
Oh thank you Belle, thats very sweet of you :)
My condolences Keith on you loss.
I don’t consider death to be a morbid topic unless we get pre-occupied with it. It is a discussion well worth having. Once we come to terms with our own mortality, we gain an insight into living life that is otherwise lost to us.
My own understanding is that there are no gods, no ghosts, no reincarnation and no life of any kind after our bodies die. It sounds simple enough but there is so much mythology and “woo” talked about it that many people spend too much time fearing it. However it takes a certain maturity to be able to see through all of that, accepts it and then have a smile to yourself.
I am here once and I try to give my life whatever meaning I want it to have while I exist. When I am dead it will be the same as before I was born. I will become unaware once more.
However it is most often not coming to terms with the death of friends and family that is the problem for us. It does afford you a different perspective when you have been able to acknowledge and accept your own mortality but we still have a grieving process to experience.
Religion bullshits people with having the solution. It promises eternal life to people for believing that they can have direct contact with the Creator of the Universe and yet never has to show any evidence for that. It is a vulgar conceit, especially when reinforced to people who have just lost someone close. It just plays on the fear people have of it. I often wonder if Christians really believe it. They should be happy their loved one is going to meet Jesus. Ok, I am being a little harsh there but claiming someone is “gone to a better place” or “gone for their reward” is not realistic.
I generally do not attend funerals. I prefer to visit with people a few days or weeks later when they have had some time to recover from the “chaos” surrounding the death and funeral. They will often appreciate the company and someone actually asking them how they feel. (Christians tend to shy away from that question). Offering you time to someone in mourning and even just listening to them is much better for them than telling them you will pray for them (i.e. do nothing).
If they ask me about an afterlife I will tell them that Heaven and Hell where the dead reside in the minds of those still living. If they left us with good memories and experiences then they live on in minds of our collective Heaven. We should celebrate their lives rather than just mourn their loss.
Near Death Experiences are caused by dopamine which is natures “E”. It is how our body react to dying. They have an entirely scientific explanation. Here are 2 opinions and Annie Druyan says it better.
Here is what she said about her time with her husband, Carl Sagan.
“When my husband died, because he was so famous and known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me-it still sometimes happens-and ask me if Carl changed at the end and converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again.
Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don't ever expect to be reunited with Carl. But, the great thing is that when we were together, for nearly twenty years, we lived with a vivid appreciation of how brief and precious life is. We never trivialized the meaning of death by pretending it was anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we were alive and we were together was miraculous-not miraculous in the sense of inexplicable or supernatural.
We knew we were beneficiaries of chance. . . . That pure chance could be so generous and so kind. . . That we could find each other, as Carl wrote so beautifully in Cosmos, you know, in the vastness of space and the immensity of time. . . . That we could be together for twenty years. That is something which sustains me and it’s much more meaningful. . . . The way he treated me and the way I treated him, the way we took care of each other and our family, while he lived. That is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday.
I don't think I'll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful.”
Thank you Reg, really appreciate that. That was very informative, insightful and indeed interesting.
I personally do attend funerals as a mark of respect for the memory of the person. For obvious reasons I do not pray or participate in holy communion. My presence is there as support for my loved ones. While everyone else is praying I am with my own thoughts and reflecting upon pleasant memories I've had with he deceased (in this case my Granddad). I was asked if I'd like to read a prayer for my Granddad by an aunt (who does not know that I'm agnostic). I polity told her that I'd rather not. Which was understood as others in my family would be too upset to speak anyway. I did assist in carrying the coffin in, as I don't intemperate that as a religious thing. It was more of an act to honour my Granddad's memory.
I didn't know the exact cause of NDE's. I assumed that some sort of psychological trauma was occurring in the mind of course. But I did not know it was due to dopamine. So thank you for sharing that.
Condolences on your loss.
It can be a hard thing to get through, the idea of never seeing/speaking with that person ever again.
When I think about it, its hard on the living to deal with the loss of a loved one, that's both human and common to most mammals at least in nature. How we deal with that grief is different of course.
The feelings we experience though seem universal. For example, a mother leopard who's cub was eaten by a python, chased down the python, following its path from the den where it snatched the cub. She called to the cub while tracking the python, and, found it, and harassed the python until it regurgitated the cub's remains...and then she ate the cub's remains. (Snakes regurgitate a recent meal when under stress, to help them have the agility needed to fight or escape, etc)
Leopards have been known to kill pythons, and eat them, but not eat the regurgitated meals...and this was JUST getting it to regurgitate the cub....and NOT killing the python for food.
Elephants, monkeys, etc, all display similar behavior that indicates that they are upset/sad/missing the lost family/clan member, etc.
Mourning seems a common issue...not just a human one.
How we cope seems to be different, albeit we really don't know what an elephant or leopard is thinking...but humans tend to universally comfort each other by implying some combination of the dead having lived a good life, being no longer in pain, or as now in the happy hunting ground/valhalla/heaven, with the ancestors, etc.
When I personally consider the issue, the dead, once dead, are a non-issue: They no longer exist.
The real issue is comforting the survivors. The pain and suffering of the LIVING is the issue.
Watch a guy who throws a bad bowling ball trying to convince it to move more to the pin he wants to hit, or a guy wearing his lucky jersey/socks/hat or whatever to watch a ballgame on TV...they are all exhibiting the same behavior as a religion.
IE: If you THINK you can influence an outcome, or have a HOPE that you might one day be reunited with a loved one, you are more likely to try/believe it.
So, yes, religion can potentially comfort the survivors who act/feel that way...unless they are terrified that the loved one might go to hell and be tortured forever, etc.
A funeral is really for the living. They mourn the passing of a loved one together, share stories, share their grief, etc. It can be cathartic.
So, sure, offering to pray for the departed, or the living, is about as useful as a "I support our troops" sticker on your car.
Offering a ride, groceries, to do some cooking or cleaning, etc, is far more meaningful.
Some people add "If there's ANYTHING I can do for you, just ask, I mean that", etc...but, when asked to do something, it tends to become immediately obvious that the offer was made to be nice/show concern, but not to be a legal obligation per se.
Don't make people ASK, if you DO want to help, just do something useful that makes sense. Show up and do what needs to be done.
I have lost quite a few loved ones recently, within a few years, both of my younger brothers, inlaws, my mother, several friends, etc.
It WOULD be comforting if I could pretend I'd see them again...but its a lie I can't even make myself pretend is true. I just have to suck it up and try to make life better for the ones who are left...because they too will be gone one day.
I'd rather spend the time with the love ones when they are alive, then at their grave.
BTW - My youngest brother was a circus clown/graduate of the Barnum & Bailey Clown College - I taught him to juggle so he could apply there.
When we buried him, my other brother and I went back and placed clown shoe toes sticking up at the foot of the grave, not flowers, as we knew he would appreciate it. It made US feel like we were properly honoring his memory at least.
Thanks for that response. The funeral was fine. I didn't read any biblical readings of course. When everyone was praying I just lowered my head and was with my thoughts. I did carry the coffin into the church as a form of respect for my grandfather's memory.
I would Love to Believe the Fairy Tale, that we continue to Live in Spirit after we are gone. But Sadly, I must face the fact, that Oblivion is the only Intelligent answer to our fate!
When people ask me "What do you think will happen to you after you die?" my response tends to be something like "What 'you' are you talking about after death? Isn't death "no more you"?
Dying is an experience. Death is not.
RE: What happens to you after you die:
Decomposition comes to mind.
RE: What happens to you after you die:
Decomposition comes to mind.
In other words, the Afterlife is just a bunch of rot.