The fear of death and living

I’ve thought about this a lot lately...I had to have minor surgery on my sinus’s and this brought up some unsettling feelings. I was afraid of the unknown, afraid of the “what could happen”, and afraid of the pain. I think most people who go to the hospital feel this way…feel this and the loss of control.

The fear of death has been in my mind and started to grip up in earnest on several occasions. The first clear grasp of fear was when my husband, dad/sis in law and I got stuck on a rollercoaster in 2001. I thought I was going to die. This realization seemed to snap back into me with such a force I knew I had to have a child to keep back the tide of endings. I wanted to live on, even on a small scale (or great scale), through my children.

It’s a bit funny how this realization comes full force in the physical. As an artist, I have always known I would live on through my works of art be it writing or painting or photography. I’m grateful to many professors for their repetition of how art is like living on. And I know it to be true from the books I’ve read and the paintings I’ve seen.

But when the body breaks down and is at last gone, what have we left behind? What is it that others will have gotten from our passing? Will we have done good things or bad? Will we go quietly into the dark or raging?

Death is something we all face. We are all on that road and it is hard to grasp and realize. I was scared in the hospital but I knew my condition was small and in the end, I gave up my fear. I imagined I was petting my cats and dog and a sense of peace seemed to overwhelm me. Letting go, I came back. I awoke next in my recovery room and saw my husbands face smiling at me. Everything was over and I had survived my fear of the unknown.

A poem that comes to mind:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

~Dylan Thomas

I've always liked this poem. It means so many things and most importantly, for me, it means raging against the wrongs like Katrina victims not being treated with kindness and humanity, raging against powers that abuse rather than lift up and raging for those who have little voice because of poverty.

(On a side note: I had to learn this poem when I was 19 just starting college. I had an awesome professor, who’s name I cannot remember but I do remember him. He was in his last year at Pasadena City college and regaled the class with stories of his youth. He had worked a tremendous amount of jobs from grape picker to teaching jobs to even putting a script together for a film (or two). I didn’t realize at the time how much I appreciated his perspective. I remember being annoyed at having to learn this poem, at having to standup and actually recite it in front of the class and how very sad I was at the last day of class. Also, I was extremely shy and words seemed to weigh upon me like cement blocks. But I remember him and expressions/words of my fellow students. )

The fear of death and living…fear of living and death. I hope we all can reach a satisfying conclusion for our short time on earth…and I hope our times are long in human standards and our actions will be considered blessings by others.


Carol said…
Thanks for this post. Most anxieties have to do with the fear, I think.

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