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Why I’m Not Afraid to Die

 

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In the last decade, five of my dearest friends died. When Kendall Kane, my closest friend for twenty years, committed suicide two years ago, I went into a deep depression. Neither consultations with professionals, talking with remaining friends, nor time itself seemed to speed along the healing process. I still felt wretched.
How does one accept the idea that death is not far down the pike, when one still is healthy, vigorous, and in love with life?  Freud believed that in the unconscious every one of us is convinced we will live forever. Such emotional blinders ward off feelings too painful to bear, and permit us to enjoy life. Nevertheless, he tells us that there is a terrible emotional and physical cost for maintaining such illusions, and the truest wisdom lies in facing the seemingly intolerable. "If you want to endure life," Freud stressed, "prepare yourself for death."   
Growing old is a new role for me, and there is much about it I do not understand. The questions are written in my mind in blood red, but a black shadow shrouds the answers. I hope writing about it will cast some light on the unknown and bring me to terms with my fear of dying. But then it's not dying itself that bothers me. I can live with that. The truth is, I don't want to be dead! I feel like Woody Allen: "I'm not afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens."
I was there when it almost happened. Ten years ago I was hit by a taxi, and knocked unconscious. I came close to dying, even to going through a "near-death experience" in which I was drawn to a light at the end of a tunnel. I woke up from a coma in the hospital with a concussion and seven broken bones. I discovered that dying isn't so bad: You simply don't wake up. Modern science confirms this by suggesting that we are equipped with a mechanism to make death easier, that when we are close to death we turn off suffering by releasing natural opiates called endorphins that block the experience of pain. So I am not afraid to die; it is not living that I find unacceptable.
I’ve heard speak of the WHIFM Factor, "What's in it for me?" What is in it for you, dear reader, should you face the inevitability of your own death? Why would you want to pierce the iron veil of repression, which saves you so much pain and grief?  Well, better health, for one thing, along with less conflict in daily living, and the likelihood of a fuller, richer life. Freud's greatest discovery is that fear of knowledge itself is the major cause of much illness. To constantly hold down the lid on fear is exhausting, and such depletion of energy keeps our capacities from unfolding to their fullest. Beneath the surface of repression lies the promise of improved emotional and physical health, as well as the possibility of developing all our potentialities. There must be something good about dying; Kingsley Amis found something he liked about it,

 

Death has got something to be said for it:
There's no need to get out of bed for it;
Wherever you may be,
They bring it to you, free.

Ed Griffin, an ex-priest and dear writer friend told me of someone who had found an answer to my question, at least for himself. Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, the great archbishop of Chicago, said shortly before his death on November 15, 1996:
"There's something that I've become aware of: as you enter into the dying process, that process prepares you for death as you slow down. For example, I have no great desire to accomplish a lot of things before I go. I'm writing a few reflections; if I finish I finish; if I don't finish I don't finish. My legacy is what I have accomplished or have not accomplished in the last four and a half decades....And that gives you a certain amount of peace, so that leads me to say: Yes. I'm ready now. It's not that there's not a certain sadness to it. That, too, is part of the human condition. But I'm totally reconciled to the fact that before too long, I'm going to go, and I think I will be ready for it.”

  It is interesting that Cardinal Bernadin's wisdom was preceded in a sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Millay, who sensed on an instinctual level the revelation that came to the Cardinal in his illness:
 I dread no more the first white in my hair,
 Or even age itself, the easy shoe,
 The cane, the wrinkled hands, the special chair;
 Time, doing this to me, may alter too


My anguish, into something I can bear. It may be that I am so angry at the thought of dying because I am not ready yet. Perhaps Freud was wrong in saying that no person can accept his own mortality. Perhaps when he said that, he wasn't ready either. In his old age, when he had inoperable cancer, he too gave up his wish to live and killed himself. Perhaps Dylan Thomas, who wrote "Do not go gentle into that good night," was not ready to go yet, either. And perhaps Cardinal Bernadin could go gentle into that good night because he was ready. Perhaps Kendall could leave this life because she, too, was ready to go. Perhaps there is nothing to worry about. For perhaps, when my time comes, the dying process will prepare me for death, as it did Cardinal Bernadin.

 

Praises for “Why I’m Not Afraid to Die” Book

Alma Bond is a beautiful writer, and the death journal is her best idea yet. In fact, it may be the source of her immortality. Death is as taboo in our age as sex was in Freud’s. Her book is the usual spiritual life-giver she always is.  -Mary Hanford Bruce, Ph.D.,  Professor of literature, Monmouth College, author of Dr. Sally's Voodoo Man

 

"Old Age is a Terminal Illness" is a brilliant, insightful book, as courageous in its way as Freud's self analysis in "Interpretation of Dreams." All baby-boomers approaching retirement age and everyone who is unhappy about the aging process must read this book. - Janet Brill, Ph.D., faculty University of Miami, author of CholesterolDown.

 

“Everyone ultimately must face their mortality yet it’s rarely addressed on a very personal level. Alma Bond’s perspective about aging and death in Old Age is a Terminal Illness reflects her own experiences, with the insight of a psychologist and the sense of humor of someone who’s learned it’s better to laugh than be afraid.”-Daylle Deanna Schwartz, Author of All Men Are Jerks Until Proven Otherwise, How to Please a Woman, etc. etc..With grace, intelligence and sensitivity, Alma Bond ruminates on a subject from which most of us avert our eyes—her own mortality. With her thoughtful and sometimes wrenching contemplations on the terrifying topic, Bond journeys through a dark tunnel, ultimately emerging to life-affirming light. By the end of the book, we have examined our own lives and fears through hers and are enriched by the experience. -Sophia Dembling, author, staff Dallas Morning News.