On Death

This week, we lost one teammate because of COVID-19. This was the closest person I lost in the pandemic. Thankfully, the others were all mild. This made me think a lot about death. And I don't mean in a depressing or anxious way but objectively, dispassionately.

What is death? Why do we fear it so much?

More than the actual event itself, I think we fear it because we don't know it well enough. What happens when someone dies? Does consciousness die? Does it reincarnate? We may believe in our theories taught by our upbringing or religion all we want, but the fact remains that no one is really sure.

If the consciousness dies, then what is there to fear about death than the possibility of it being painful? For those who believe in a Judgement Day or reincarnation, there is possibly the fear of bearing the consequences of our actions. For those who have lived a basically good life - and that should be most of us - why should we fear? 

For people like me, living with a chronic condition like kidney failure, death is something we grapple with daily. Maddy Warren's quotes come to mind. 

“I realise I am living because of a machine. I am so aware of my sense of mortality that I just want to do everything I can in life. And want to do it all now. I will not wait till I am older, or retired, or have more time at work. I want it all now.”

We try to get so many things done. We have this sense of urgency about us. While it is not something we think of constantly, it is there at the back of our mind. 

“If I am going to make such vast effort every day to stay alive, it is non-negotiable to me that I rinse every last second and experience out of life."

“I have already had one too many serious health crises - you can never count on things working out tomorrow, next week or next year. So you do them all today or as soon as humanly possible.”

So, instead of brooding about death and worrying about it, why not make our lives so fulfilling and enriching, touch as many lives as possible, do good to as many people as possible, spread love and laughter so much, that whenever death comes, we don't dread it but face it bravely knowing that we did the best we could and have no regrets?


Dr Rajiv M said…
Lovely article, Kamal. As always, your words bear the imprimatur of a life steeped in the truth of what you speak.

I also like the view Roger Ebert, the great movie critic, took on the subject. He lived in the shadow of cancer for a decade. "None of us worry about the oblivion that happened to us before we were born, so why worry about a return to that state?" was his notion.

Kamal D Shah said…
Thanks so much Rajeev. Your comment means a lot. Yes, Roger Elbert’s take makes so much sense.