Why Death Is Only A Problem For The Living

Why death is only a problem only for the livingMax Edwards is 16 and death is imminent. Five months ago, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He now measures time in distinct chunks, focusing on events – a holiday or a party. In this article I explore that while he is dying, he is dying well.

Life and Death

I struggled to read this article in The Guardian newspaper. And yet it was inspirational and had stoic overtones:

I am sure the expectation of death is worse than death itself. True, they say death is the worst single thing that can happen to you, and given that I can’t trick myself into believing there is an afterlife, I imagine it leads only to an empty void, but I’ve found ways to accept such an idea. First, I look on my life, which I believe has been a modest success, and remember that it could not have occurred in any other way. The only possible way I could have had my unique set of experiences is by living my life as it is, and that means dying when I die. Even if I’m wrong, and there has been more unhappiness than I care to remember (rendering my life “unsuccessful”), death – the absence of pain or pleasure – should then logically be seen as an improvement.

Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking. Marcus Aurelius

Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking. Marcus Aurelius

Perhaps we would like to stay alive forever, but everyone dies. It is natural. For me Stephen Covey was right when he said, begin with the end in mind. And here’s how he tells us to do that: imagine what we’d like people to say about us at our funeral. Do we want them to say that we were kind, or loving, or successful, or that we accomplished great things? Whatever the answer is, that’s how we should live our lives.

Every moment of every day, starting right now.

After all it’s about what’s important in life, how you want to live, and how you want to die. Take the advice of Marcus Aurelius:

Maybe people get scared of death because they imagine it be like being trapped in complete darkness? And while you’re in that scary place you’re aware that you’re trapped. Retaining some kind of consciousness despite being dead. Think of it like this: during a deep sleep you have no awareness of anything. This is a better concept of death. It is a complete and eternal lack of experience, which isn’t a problem for the person who has died. Death is a problem only for the living. The people you leave behind after you’re gone will grieve. This is both a comforting but chilling thought. Chilling in its finality but comforting as the dead are no longer in pain, or suffering.

Only the living must resign themselves the melancholy of heartbreak.

Photo credit: gfpeck via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

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