A Fear of Dying

Posted on | February 24, 2012 | 5 Comments

When I was little, I had a deep rooted fear of death.  I feared the knowing, the understanding that one day I would be without.  I feared the pain and the discomfort and the aching longing of being without life… without love.  As I grew, I learned that my death is not something to fear… it is the inevitable.  It is the natural and right end of myife.  So my fear of my own death dissipated.  I learned that death would come for me some day and that all I could do was make the most of whatever time I had left.

But my fear of death didn’t go away. It morphed and changed into something outside of myself, into a feeling too frightening to name.

I wholeheartedly and selfishly fear the deaths of those around me. 

I fear the loss of loved ones, the empty spaces at the table, the empty dial tone on the other end of the line.  I fear the lost hugs and lost smiles, the lost words that can never be spoken.  I fear the lost voices, the lost faces, the lost memories and remembrances that should never be lost… the people and things that should never be allowed to go away.  Not forever. Not for a lifetime.  Not from me.

Last night, I dreamed of Death.  I dreamed that she was a large, sweet-faced Golden Retriever, clipped and bathed and soft as newborn skin.  She padded slowly down the hallways of nursing homes and hospitals, laying her sweet warm head against the chests and heads of those who leave us behind.  And in my dream, I followed behind her, cleaning up the mess she left behind and watching as others happily took their last steps alongside her golden fur.   I followed behind and begged them not to go, begged them to stay another day, another hour, another minute.  But none of them stayed.   My pleading could not distract them from the sweet fulfillment of her fur beneath their hand.  

And I woke up feeling scared and comforted at the same time. 

I do not know how to prepare for the deaths of loved ones.  I have had the unfortunate experience of losing a friend once … I do not know how to prepare to do it again.  I do not know how to gracefully lose a mother or a father or a sibling… I do not know how anyone makes it through the loss of a child.

I think what we all fear is that unknown space… that unknowable and unimaginable space that exists where someone we love used to stand.  We fear that space that says they are no longer here, they are no longer with us.  We want to sheild our loved ones, not for their sakes, but for ours.  Because, after all, their suffering ends when ours is barely beginning.   And selfishly, I want to wrap my arms around my friends and my family and pull them close to me.  I want to tuck them into my pocket and carry them with me always, pulling them out to whisper my secrets to and then tucking them safely away again… free from death, free from pain. 

I do not know how to prepare for the pain of losing the people who fill my spaces… even though I know that pain is just around the corner, waiting to surprise me, waiting to terrify me, waiting to meet me head on with the awkward embrace of my own desperate longing.


5 Responses to “A Fear of Dying”

  1. Colleen Barry-Goodman
    February 24th, 2012 @ 9:24 am

    As someone who lost

  2. Susan Gloss
    February 24th, 2012 @ 9:32 am

    That dream sounds like it was a gift. What a wonderful image, to picture death not as the reaper, but as a sweet Golden Retriever! I’m going to try to keep that image with me when I dwell on thoughts of anticipated loss.

  3. Meredith Lamendola
    February 24th, 2012 @ 10:19 am

    As someone who just lost my very close Grandmother suddenly, they get you through it. I truly believe that the loved one that passed is there besides you in spirit to walk you through your grief. When my Grandmother passed, I could feel her around me. I could smell her and hear her in my times of sorrow. It was different than I could ever have imagined it to be, she had to have been there holding my hand and guiding me through the pain because I know I would not have been strong enough to handle it on my own.

    Your loved ones stay with you and comfort you with their memories always. I still fear death of loved ones but now I am comforted in knowing that there will always be a connection stronger than this world we live in.

  4. Kristinayellow
    February 24th, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

    I fear death but honestly, I fear not living more. Sounds odd but I’m scared of being so fearful that I miss my time here–time with those I love and those I dislike (since you have to have the bad to really appreciate the good). Sometimes these dreams help us remember how important it is to say things now instead of putting them off, do things when you can and refocus on our priorities. Thanks for reminding me-I’ve been wallowing in self-pity due to a sudden health scare but honestly, it could be worse and I’m still around for my sweet, obnoxious, smart preschooler. That’s what counts.

  5. guest
    February 24th, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

    i lived 36 years without losing anyone very close to me, and then my dad died 5 months ago and my grandmother died three weeks ago. so i understand where you’re coming from. the good news is that although the pain is very real, it is actually not as bad as i expected. but i have a very vivid imagination 🙂 so that might explain that. also, i suspect you’re thinking of your friend with cancer, and i have not lost a close friend, one my age. though i feel like my dad was taken away from me too soon, it helps to think of the nearly 78 years he did get. :-/

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