Most of us cannot say we are prepared for life, and much less, death. We are more ill-prepared for death than we are with life which we are scrambling to make sense of and deal with each day.

The uncertainties in life propel us to seek meaning and solace in religion, spirituality, or belief systems such as science. However, many of these systems do not go comprehensively into how to die and the different stages one experiences after we take our last breath.

Even if we do not want to face it, we would have to agree that we have to experience death alone even if we are accompanied by loved ones during the process of dying, once we have lost physical consciousness, it’s a solitary path and if there was nothing else there–a void–perhaps there is nothing much to discuss nor fear anymore.

If we give death serious thought we will come to the conclusion that as much as we think we might know about it, there is exponentially more that we do not know and if we are humble enough to admit it, then perhaps there is hope for us yet because it is at this point that we would take the first step to learning about death and preparing our minds so that whenever the time comes, we would know what to expect. As the old saying goes: Forewarned is forearmed.

I have lost a beloved relative last year and was completely unprepared for it. Granted, my grandmother has had a long life; being an octogenarian at her passing, she has had many experiences already, but all these experiences have not prepared her for the final experience in the physical world before passing.

We find the topic of death morbid or scary, wrapped with superstition or obscure beliefs which can be fact or fiction, or encouraging an escapist attitude where people would rather not think about it and avoid it until the inevitable appears. This attitude is understandable after all, most people do not wish to die, or are afraid or death, or are afraid to see or deal with death, or are averse to losing a loved one.

We put off dealing with it until we absolutely have to and by that time, it becomes too late. Beyond the standard rituals administered prior to death, it would be good to give the person an idea of what to expect when their consciousness gradually separates from their physical being so as to lessen the trauma or shock or suffering of this huge, final, and ultimate transition.

Short of being able to provide a medical miracle and saving ourselves or our loved ones from dying, the next best gift would be to be able to guide them and support them to towards their final adventure and giving them due knowledge of what to expect when their senses dissolve one by one as they get acquainted with a new way of being.

I have then started reading about dying and the experience of dying and I’ve come across very interested and well-grounded Buddhist texts about the stages of dying and I’ve taken it upon myself to gradually acquaint myself with it so that I may not be taken by surprise again and feel frustratingly unprepared and unequipped to help, support, and guide a loved one through their last moments as well as be able to knowledgeably substantiate what should or should not be done immediately after a loved one had passed without having to relie on what may sound like hearsay and superstition or quaint religious practices which may only be specific to a certain faith.

Death is universal, irregardless of faith, we will all go through this experience and there will be some universal truths applicable to death. I’ve found that Buddhism as an ancient philosophical system based on logic, analysis, and investigation (albeit under colorful religious trappings) has substantially studied death and dying and I would like to learn more so as to separate sensible fact from embellished riutualistic belief as passed down from word of mouth from folk knowledge.

I will be sharing and reviewing the books here as I finish reading each of them.

We wouldn’t think it would be prudent travel to a quaint foreign country without doing due research on the Internet and consulting guidebooks and learning about their culture and maybe a bit of their language; what more for the compulsory, unavoidable, and final journey to the strange, unknown, and unfamiliar territory of death?

(c) Niconica 2013

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