As I am writing this article, it is almost 8pm over here in Kuala Lumpur on 21 December 2012, the last day of the Mayan calendar, and supposedly the day the world ends. The day is almost over for us here, and very likely it will end as normal as before.
Have you been stocking up food stuff at home, just in case? I know of at least a friend who admitted that she had stocked some some extra food in her house – just in case.
As I was opening up my clinic to start the day’s work yesterday morning, a patient was waiting for me. She walked towards me and asked, “Doctor, do you think what they say about tomorrow will happen? Should I be prepared?” At first, the questions did not register in my mind but eventually it sank in. She was referring to the end of the world prediction!
Doomsday predictions have been around for as long as we can remember. In recent memories, we have had our own Y2K doomsday prediction, which did not come true. It was not even close. But why do so many feel so drawn towards doomsday predictions? What are their appeals?
According to Stephanie Pappas’ article published on LiveScience, doomsday predictions are based on the need to reconcile two conflicting beliefs. The first is that there is something terribly wrong with the world we live in. The second is that there is a higher good or purpose to existence. The draw of doomsday predictions is that it helps to reconcile these two beliefs – allowing a higher cosmic power to sweep away all the wrongs in the world and start afresh.
If you are fascinated by doomsday predictions, perhaps you should take a closer look at your mind and honestly examine why you are drawn to them.
So, once again I asked, have you stocked up extra food stuff just in case? What does this action tell you about yourself? Does it reflect your deeper fear about death? Is there some degree of disenchantment about the world you live in? Do you see the world as hostile? Do you see the human condition as hopeless? Are you in despair and see the end of the world as an honorable way out?
It could be all of these or none of these. In any case, this presents a good opportunity for an honest self reflection. Perhaps we might learn something interesting about ourselves and our inner psyche.
Marvin is 55 years old and he has a brain tumour. He is getting physically weaker by the day and is now having difficulty in breathing. However, he is still mentally very alert.
Although Marvin knows that death is imminent, he does not seem to fear death, at least not outwardly. As he is not talking very much about his impending death, I take it as a sign that he or those around him have not fully accepted the reality of his situation. I personally feel if this hurdle is overcome, it would make a tremendous change for all. Read more
While I was having my lunch two days ago, a patient of mine approached me and made a request that I go to her house to see her husband who is dying of cancer.
Her husband has been suffering of a cancer of the neck which has spread to the liver and other parts of his body for many months. He was growing weaker by the day and his body was getting thinner and more cachexic each time I saw him. I have been visiting him at his home once in a while to help change his urinary cathether.
When we reached her house, I went in and upon looking at her husband, I realised that he had died. To make sure, I checked his carotid pulse, a major pulse at the neck, and found that it was absent. There was no more spontaneous breathing and his pupils were fully dilated and not reactive to lights. I therefore pronounced him dead. Read more
As a doctor and a hospice volunteer, one of the most common fears that I encounter in my job is the fear of dying. In fact, this fear is so common that we have come to accept it as part and parcel of our life. In our fear-driven world where a lot of our actions are motivated by fear, the fear of dying seems like just another fear we need to live with.
However, I have had the good fortune to come across people who are able to die with courage, dignity and peace. During their final days and even up to the moment of death, they remained in peace and without a trace of fear. It almost looked as if they welcome death.
Regardless of the kind of illnesses they may be suffering from, each of these people have some common traits. Read more
Why We Fear Death
“Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark.” – Bacon
There may be a thousand reasons why we fear death, but most of all we fear death because we fear the unknown, and death is an unknown entity to most people. We fear that dying may be painful and we do not know what will happen to us at the point of death.
Some people fear death because they imagine the dying process to be very painful. Death is not painful. In fact, death is often very peaceful and silent even for those suffering from cancers or other terminal illness. Read more
For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learned never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people have had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
Bronnie Ware is a writer, singer/songwriter, songwriting teacher and speaker from Australia. She has lived nomadically for most of her adult life. Bronnie shares her inspiring observations and the insights gained along the way through the diversity of her work. To read more of her articles and learn about her other work, please visit Inspiration and Chai at http://www.inspirationandchai.com.