There are few things in life that are absolute certainties. A fat kid wearing his t-shirt in the pool, Mel Gibson laughing all the way through Schindler’s List, and death.
Most of us will only experience one of these things (my apologies if you’re a fat kid: you will experience two), but it’s how we handle it that makes us different. I, for instance, am petrified by the thought of dying—not the pain or manner in which I die, death itself. The great unknown, the thought of being unconscious for eternity, the contemplation of what eternity is, and ruminations on the morbid happenings of my body after I die have all kept me up at night. But what really bothers me about thanatophobia is that not everyone has it.
I talk to people all the time that are “not afraid to die”, that phrase passing through their lips as effortlessly as they would order dinner. Usually it’s followed by some nonsensical “everything happens for a reason” theory that makes me seriously consider suicide. But, I’ve talked to rational, intelligent people who aren’t afraid to die so I don’t think it’s necessarily a symptom of delusion. Maybe people really aren’t afraid to die, or maybe they’re lying to me, or maybe they prefer to be left alone on the subway. Either way I don’t understand it.
I guess my problem with death really comes down to the lack of options. Either there is nothing after we die or there is something. The ‘nothing’ is scary because consciousness is all we truly know; not being able to think seems inconceivable. The second option is eternal life, which might actually be the scarier of the two. What is that? Some weird concept where you’re on a cloud somewhere reunited with your loved ones? Some mystical transformation that goes beyond our human comprehension? Ghosts? Ghost sex? Some combination of ghost sex and your loved ones? (I’m secretly hoping for that one Uncle Carl!) I know I’m not the only one with this fear, but I wish more people would address this issue honestly.
Death talk doesn’t have to devolve into some maudlin conversation at the end of the night, but can be discussed humorously to allow some detachment. Then again I’m apparently pursuing a post-mortem relationship with my Uncle Carl so you can probably take or leave my advice.