Are you afraid to die?

Rest in Peace dear Scruffy
Death and dying are subjects that most people avoid, until something happens to make them become aware of their own mortality - funerals, serious illness of friends and family members, being involved in a bad accident, the onset of old age or the death of a treasured pet.

And of course the dreaded pronouncement of the doctor - how many weeks you may have left to live.

My dear little dog Scruffy died in 2011, and although I had been watching him struggle to cope with old age and all that goes with it, knowing that the day would come, I was astounded at the shock I felt when he left us.

It felt as if a massive part of my soul had flown away and left behind in its place a heavy choking pain. And of course, I spent the time in-between sobbing, considering what death means.

What happens when you die? Does anyone know? It is a subject that has consumed philosophers over time.   Many religions preach a heavenly place (or hell for those not good enough) that one's soul goes to upon death. But no-one really knows for sure, do they? There are no travel brochures or documentaries about that place are there?

So, this massive unknown, this mystery that is inevitable for us all, creates fear. Most of us fear the unknown, and with good cause. We like to be prepared for what's coming whenever we do anything. Knowing what to do and what to expect generally takes away the fear, or at least gives us the courage to go through with it (like going to the dentist).

Many people also fear death due to being told that they will "go to hell" or "purgatory" when they die because of things they have done, and the graphic descriptions I have heard of this would terrify anyone. Just what happens when you die, when you take the final "big bungy jump" is therefore of prime concern, because one thing is sure, we all die, and need to be prepared for it.

So is there any way of finding out what happens when we die so that we can prepare ourselves? The only thing I have discovered that seems to bear reasonable proof is the phenomenon of "near death experiences" or NDE's. These experiences are remembered by people who for some reason or other have technically "died" and then have been brought back to life.

There are many books on the subject notably "Life after Life" by Dr Raymond Moody. He documented many accounts of what people who had been clinically dead for a short period of time, described once they were brought back to life.

Typically, these experiences generally follow a theme:
They hear themselves pronounced dead which seems to be a trigger to the experience. They may hear a loud and uncomfortable noise prior to finding themselves moving very fast along a tunnel which is either very dark or bright.

When they emerge from the tunnel they realise they are outside of their body and most often can see it as they left it, such as being operated on. They can see their body from up above or any position and watch other people tending to their body. Once they fully recognise that this is their own body (apparently we don't quite look like we think we do when seen as others see us) they realize they are dead.

This often can be frightening, especially to those who have had no thoughts about what to expect upon death. Some try to do things such as open doors and realize that they can't. Some call on God or other religious figures they believe in or are familiar with. At this point they are often joined by previously deceased relatives.

They become aware of a figure that some may describe as an angel or other spiritual being, often shining bright and emanating a great sense of love and peace towards the deceased, a feeling unlike any experienced in normal life.

They "hear" this being talking to them although they cannot see lips move. This being "shows" them a replay of their life in an understanding and non-judgemental way. The purpose seems to be that the deceased judges their own life.

They are then told that it is not yet their time to die, and that they must return. Often they feel so happy and at peace that they resist this but they suddenly find themselves back in their body sometimes accompanied by a falling or jolting feeling.

They are then told by others that they had been dead for a short period of time.

I can identify with some of this as during my childhood and youth I often had what are called "out of body experiences" during sleep and sometimes when still awake, where I could see my body from above. I have experienced the noise and the tunnel.

Not knowing what was happening to me I was too afraid of the experience and fought it, coming back into my body with a real physical jolt. Once I also experienced an immense indescribable love and peace as I woke from a dream and knew that this had been a spiritual experience. This feeling was so profound that I wanted only to feel it again and felt terrible loss for some time.

My own experiences give credibility to the hundreds of accounts I have read about, and make it very clear that not only is there a life after death, but that purgatory and hell do not form part of the experience, only love, peace and understanding.

However, in keeping with my other posts, I believe that our interpretation of what we experience is very strongly biased towards what we expect or believe will happen. In other words, Christians may see Jesus, Buddhists may see the Buddha and atheists may see some strange otherworldly creature. Our life after death, just like our life, is formed by our own thoughts, beliefs and feelings.

So, if you trust that you will meet up with your previously deceased family, even the family dog, and that you will be guided through the experience by a loving spiritual being, I do think that this will allow you to embrace not only the experience, but to also enjoy every moment of life you have left, knowing that the next journey holds nothing to fear.

I would strongly recommend that you drop any thoughts of hell and purgatory, as even though I do not believe these conditions exist, the thoughts or beliefs may be enough to cause you to become "stuck" as a lost soul wandering the earth, fear making you unable to hear the loving spiritual being at your side.

If you prefer not to think too hard about what will happen, then simply make sure to remind yourself when it happens, to tell yourself to "go to the light" as this thought will allow your soul to release fear and move into the loving experience. I am sure that my "out of body" experiences would have been wonderful if I had not been afraid. And it was only lack of understanding that caused the fear.

Therefore think about death, do not be afraid. By all accounts there is absolutely nothing to fear. In fact, it seems that it truly is a heavenly experience, a release from earthly cares.

Please be aware though that we need to live out our earthly life, as awful as it may be for some, as life after death can only come after a life fully lived.

Please take care, love and be loved, and know that the day you die will be a warm and loving time, an experience to embrace. Have no fear.

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