Do you plan to die in peace — or do you just plan to die as death finds you?


How often do you consider your death?

Have you already made preparations for your dying?  If yes, what have you done so far?

Would you want to be told you have six months to live; or would you prefer to unexpectedly drop dead?

Do you attend funerals, or do you prefer to stay away?

30 Comments

  1. Thank you for that link back to such a tender moment – long before I joined here.
    Given my somewhat erratic health over the last ten years and the sudden but not altogether unexpected death of my mother on the last day of last year I have probably thought about it more than most recently.
    I have started to make practical arrangements for such an eventuality – they however are dependent on the aftermath and final sorting out after my mothers passing.
    My partner and my family know of my wishes for the funeral and distribution of assets (should I have any left). There is also a list all my computer passwords to close down accounts etc.
    After my last brush with the grim reaper – I try and live each day as it were my last – making sure my loved ones know they are loved and that I leave nothing undone and that I have no regrets.
    One thing I am certain about is that I do not want to linger – either in pain or in a vegetative state. I have indicated this on my medical records.
    I attend some funerals – more often than not it is to support those left behind – rather than through any sense of loss.
    I always hold a private ritual of passing for those I know to give thanks for them, their life and their friendship and to light their way.

  2. Hi David,
    Wind and weather permitting and barring a fatal accident or a terminal illness or any other such thing, i plan to die in peace.
    I have to admit though that i do not consider my death much. and have not made any preparations for it.
    Between dropping dead of something that i could have known about in advance and being aware of a fairly accurate date of expiry i think i would choose the latter. maybe to do the things i’ve always wanted to but never did thinking i had all the time in the world.
    i normally attend funerals.

  3. There is a tremendous rabbinic tradition that Jacob prayed for illness so that he would have some kind of advance notice that he was going to be going at some point in the near future, such that he could properly prepare. I hope that I have at least a few months notice but I don’t want to dwell on it until then. To me, dwelling on it for possibly years or decades serves no purpose other than to get me down.
    I only attend funerals of close family because, thank G-d, none of my friends have yet passed away. I have a fear of uncontrollable laughter at funerals, so I’d rather not attend but would if it were appropriate to be there.

  4. Hi Nicola!
    I am glad you read the tender link and such a warm response. Thank you!
    You are smart to make arrangements based on your past. Is your partner elevated above your children? Will he get everything and then, upon his demise, the bounty goes to your children?
    I agree on lingering — unless there is a determined plan that things will get better.
    Funerals are strange and sad things. I attended the funeral of my grandfather many years ago and I wish I hadn’t. I appreciated him much more in my memory than seeing him in real life dead in an open coffin and my cousins sobbing so deeply with regret.

  5. Thanks for the insight, Dananjay. I think pondering death is a task for the elderly and the infirm — otherwise we’d never move or take a chance or risk injury if we thought the end could truly be so near.
    I do think there is valuing in knowing the end is near, though, so final preparations can be made, final yearnings can be expressed, and any property, ideas or details can be expressed and remembered by others.
    If you know you were dying and the coming end was going to be prolonged and painful — would you choose to die by your own hand with the help of a physician so you could control the when and the why of your death?

  6. Gordon —
    I can see the value in knowing you are dying. One of my first agents in NYC was a devout, but not radically conservative, Jew. If anyone would ever say, “I might have brain cancer” or “may God strike me down” or some other terrible physical ailment, he would interrupt and say, “Don’t speak it, or it will happen! You don’t know what you’re doing!”
    I found that curious and enticing because — even though the people were generally joking — the mere utterance of having an illness that had not yet crept upon the body was enough of a tempting of the Gods that my agent felt he had to step in and rescue the uninformed.
    I haven’t had any close friends die yet — but I do find myself wondering about the end and if I’ve done enough and if there is time enough yet to finish everything.

  7. There is a saying that comes from Pirkei Avos that I find appropos – “You are not required to complete the work, but neither are you free to avoid it” – as in, don’t just give up because you aren’t sure you won’t be able to finish in time. Push on and the work will get done.

  8. I like that, Gordon! We must know there are expectations to be met and more greatness to be found and time and tide will not wait. I do think it would be paralyzing, though, knowing the exact date and time of your death — even if it were 100 years in the future — because it just brings everything to a definite end: Why bother?

  9. If I knew the exact date and time of the death I would certainly cut a lot of the fat out of my life – ie time sinks – and focus on the things that are most important – torah, mitzvos, and creative output.

  10. As I wrote the comment, your comment came into mind as a question to myself.
    I think it’s because we delude ourselves into thinking that the end will never come because if we were too aware of it, it would be maddening 🙂
    It’s important to periodically look at ones schedule and see how much is fat and how much is significant towards accomplishing ones goals.

  11. “Lucky” is an interesting word, Dananjay. Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Lucks is where preparation and opportunity meet.” I like that idea a lot. There’s much less chance involved with that notion and I know a lot of “lucky” people and they’re smart and always on track of positive attack.

  12. That’s true, David. I’ve come to understand that too. If you aren’t smart and prepared, opportunities will pass you by and you won’t notice them and you’ll moan that you never have any luck!

  13. My partner gets certain things – he gets all of the life style ephemera – including a sizable collection of lifestyle first edition books and signed original photographic works. He will also get a lump sum. He will also be my executor.
    The rest is equally split between the three children.
    However the children and I and my partner have ALL agreed that as I have spent a fortune educating them (the children) that I am entitled to enjoy the rest of my days without worrying about passing on large inheritances.
    I am not a fan of funerals – we deliberately renamed my mothers funeral and people were invited to come and remember and celebrate her life.
    I have a problem with organized religion and nearly always feel uncomfortable in churches. I can however see the benefit of the ritual of saying thank you and goodbye – I just prefer to do it in private.
    How old were you when you saw your grandfather in an open coffin? Was it the sight of him that upset you or your cousins emotional reaction?

  14. Thanks for sharing the details of your death, Nicola. It must be a big responsibility to make everyone face the notion you will no longer be around one day. What of the house? Will be be sold? Divided? Lived-in forever?
    You’re right that you’ve given your kids the best gift of all: Smart and educated minds! Everything beyond that is frosting, as we say. SMILE!
    I much prefer a private expression of grief to a public one — I think you can do that on the internet, but in person, with lots of people milling about with varying degrees of interest and dismay — it is a strange concoction.
    I think I must’ve been 14 when my grandfather passed. Seeing his dead body wasn’t a big deal — he didn’t look like himself at all. He was pasty and had on lots of makeup.
    My cousin’s sobbing — a full bodied, uncontrolled, lurching in the church pew — was an expression of grief and remorse that was stunning to me and I couldn’t help but thinking back then that she’d be better off not being there than to have have that recognition of human frailty on a public stage.

  15. It was not such a big deal given the fact I have already had that brush with the grim reaper. Things would have been a veritable mess had I not made it through and things may well have gone to the wrong people.
    We have taken a very pragmatic approach to death since. There are two certainties in this life – birth and death. Once you are born you are going to die – it maybe in 9 weeks like my son, it may be at 77 years like my father or 91 years like my mother.
    My grandmother has this wonderful saying that you should always wear clean underwear when you went out in case you were run over by a bus!
    We can die at any time – often through no fault of our own – death is a fact of life.
    Budgie says to me do not worry if he ever “pegs out” overnight – and adds “know that I love you and you have bought me the greatest contentment in out time together.”
    If I manage to keep the house – which is now looking more certain 🙂 🙂 – it will be left to the children – if I live long enough it will go to my children’s children. The one person it will not go to is the tax man!
    I went to see my mother in the chapel of rest – she looked wonderful and so peaceful – I think make up techniques for the dead must have improved considerably. Budgie came with me – he was not sure how he would cope as he had never seen a dead person before. He desperately wanted to support me and yet he found himself drawn in closer to look as well. He said afterwards that he was so glad he did as he could see that she was totally at peace as well.
    I managed (just about) to hold it together at her funeral – however my brother totally lost it and what was worse was that his wife gave him no comfort at all and distanced herself from him – that shocked me more than anything – that she could be so cold and unfeeling – another thing she will not be forgiven for.

  16. That’s amazing detail, Nicola, thanks and it does seem we need our deaths to live our lives and our lives to end our deaths. We live a circular regeneration of processing births and life endings and we need to be able to learn and cop with the ramifications of the lessons even though we may not want to catch what is being thrown at us.
    Good luck with your house! I’m excited to know that you finally have it in your possession.
    I wonder what your brother found as attractive in the woman he married? Did he admire her ability to disconnect? What was missing him him that he found in her?

  17. Never ending circles ……..
    Fingers crossed on the house – the first major hurdle has been overcome – several more to go before it is finally mine – but it is now a real possibility.
    Your last question would probably need a book to answer properly.
    There is a family joke – he only married her for the dog. My parents refused to have a dog in the house and he wanted one.
    On a more serious note I suspect that if he were tested they would find degrees of Asperger’s and dyslexia amongst other things maybe even a touch of autism and he has no social graces whatsoever. She has even less.
    When we were children – the early 1960’s he was considered “slow” – he failed the 11 plus examination and went to comprehensive school. He was doomed from then onwards.
    These days he would have been picked up as a failing child and given some support.
    Sadly he was always a *nasty piece of work* – he stole as a child, stole from my parents and myself as a teenager, took my parents car without permission and crashed it – fell in with the wrong kind of people and only just escaped prison by the skin of his teeth because my father pulled some strings.
    We both grew up in the same conditions – I thrived – he didn’t. As we are both adopted maybe there is something in our DNA that is a criminal strain?

  18. Such a sad story, Nicola! Was there no way to save him from himself? Is he working now?
    I do think genetics gives us a map of who we are and what we are to become — and trying to change that path can cause a fatal cleaving between the mind body meme — but it can successfully be done. We have seen criminals rehabilitated and we have seen good men and women turn to murder.

  19. I want to die peacefully.
    Though I don’t think about it much and I don’t want to know about the date either.
    Only thing is for sure, I don’t want to leave in a vegetable state and I am a donor, so no one has to attend my funeral – I guess!
    I do attend funerals because I care.

  20. death is so overrated if it werent for my children i wouldnt mind leaving this horrible world. If i could go back in time so many things would be changed, i have a great job and even this cant save me from my life i hate so much. The only time i feal true peace is when i am at work even as i get home from work i sit in my vehicle just praying that life be different and i dont have to face facts and enter my own house i hate the things i have seen and the things that have been pushed upon me i see other peoples lives and think how do they get there or is this just stuff that happens in the movies they have really fantastic houses , cars, and loving husbands who support them in life and i have to fight for anything i want even my career and they seem to have everything togather and the only thing i have togather is the fact that i am taking care of my three children financially alone and being used by a man that is suppose to be my HERO but yet is only a leach upon my life and knows i am his way of life he would have no one without me and he hasnt worked but 6 mohts out of the 11 years we have been married and refuses to do the things i truely need in life i need love, compassion and my romeo. i want someone to listen to my hopes and dreams i want to die i hate living and the only reason i do keep going is for my three beautiful kids because i know without me in the world they would be subject to his evil ways i just wish i could go to work take my children with me and never return. I refuse to take my antidepressant because i think it is pointless to take something to make you feel better about life when the problem is still there all you are doing is covering up the facts. It isnt really making anything any better the only one who can change your life is you and that is the hrdest thing in the world. ESCAPE………… that is what i want to do. DEATH is only a word when it happens to you the only thing left of you in the world are your memories that have been left behind. Will anyone remeber me? i doublt it they will remember me as the girl who took care of her drug abusive husband and mentally abusive husband but they wont remember me as the loving person i am who loves to care for other people and who loves to do things with her children but yet the person who could never say NO i stayed in this life and i will DIE in this life.

    1. That is a powerful story, Randa, and I thank you for sharing it with us.

      I also hope you will rethink taking your antidepressants. They are there to help balance your brain chemistry so you can more in control of your darker thoughts and not feel overwhelmed. You aren’t taking the meds to repress your feelings — you take the meds to find a more average way of thinking that will benefit you and your children. The meds can help even out the harsh spikes in your day and help you become more in control of your thoughts and to get even more determined and clear minded.

      Good luck!