Even those who deny the existence of God cannot deny the existence of death. Everyone understands that immortality is an absurd idea. When the evidence becomes ‘as certain as death’, the fear is hard to escape. About the fear of death, field marshal Sam Manekshaw is supposed to have said famously: “If anyone tells you he is never afraid, he is either a liar or a Gurkha.”
I believe one is closest to God at the times of birth and death. Having missed the first opportunity to experience His existence, death is the only chance to come face-to-face with one’s Creator. Most scholars discredit the theory of any form of survival after death, saying there is no soul apart from the body, yet mortals are advised to try their best to get entry to swarg. To my mind, our anxiety and worry is to do with the physical pain that precedes death, besides the emotional pain of losing a loved one and, sometimes, material possessions.
The fear of death rather is more dreadful than death itself. I wonder if Winston Churchill was afraid of death when he ridiculed his fear by uttering: “I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”
Most of the religions want their followers to accept death as the will of the Master and advise them not to grieve and cry over the loss of their nears and dears. Some even recommend that the end of the worldly journey be celebrated. It is a fact that one must die for making vacancy for new entrants by the laws of nature. The world is getting overcrowded because the modern science has found ways of delaying by 30-odd years the departure of countless who a hundred years ago would have died in their 50s.
No one likes to talk about death. People would rather focus on life and other positive things. However, one cannot talk about life without talking about death as one joins the queue at birth to sink into the oblivion when the time comes. The interval between birth and death is a waiting period in this queue. This queuing system is random and continuous. Liken the time we spend to service time — when one is in the queue for paying a bill or getting tickets to a show, it’s a relief when the person in front of the window steps out and the line moves an inch.
We jump every queue except this; rather we want to quit, if it were possible. The death queue is not regulated by age, status, or rank, although most of us would give our place to the other. Medical science is doing its best to push us back into the queue, make us wait longer.
Death shall die
The ‘mortal foe’ can be a welcome guest only for those who may consider it a reprieve from prolonged illness, pain, and suffering, or those ‘who live fully’ as Mark Twain suggested: “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
Of all mechanisms for escaping the world, death is the most reliable, yet it has bad reputation. People who long for death are taken for weird and miserable but more miserable are those who keep worrying about death. Why not adopt the attitude of English poet John Donne (1572-1631) who wrote:
“One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”