What We Really Lose When We Deny Our Mortality
Recently, a good friend of mine died very unexpectedly.
While on one side, my friend’s death is about a life that ended on this plane of existence.
Yet, for me, on the other side, it’s about examining death, and how people respond to it.
I used to work as an anesthesiologist. When you deal with life and death on a daily basis, you have to come to terms with your own fear of death.
Here is an experience that I’ve never forgotten: One day, I came into the hospital’s emergency room to find a patient who was bleeding uncontrollably. He had suffered from cancer of the neck and was treated with surgery, chemo, and radiation. He had come to the ER because he was bleeding and unable to stop it.
We discovered that his tumor had grown back and eroded his big blood vessels, which resulted in uncontrollable bleeding. It was bad. But, the worst part that there was no way to stop the hemorrhage. We all knew he was going to die. And he knew he was going to die.
His eyes were wide open in panic.
And then this happened: As soon as it was clear there was no way to rescue him, all the nurses and doctors turned around and left. All of them at once; there were eight.
I couldn’t believe the heartlessness of that act. So, I sat with this patient, and held his hand until his ECG showed a flat line. Death.
I’ve thought a lot about this day since then. I believe their behavior was a result of our culture’s denial of death. We no longer have rituals around it. We bury the dead, turn around, and go back to business as usual.
We try to forget, yet, underneath, our fear of dying destroys our humanity.
What would happen if you journeyed into the grieving process with your eyes wide open? What if you welcomed the tears and pain, knowing it is part of life?
What if it were possible to come to the point of gratitude that you shared a life?
That you connected with the soul who is departing?
How would that new outlook change your perspective on death and dying?