The Grim Reaper visits all of us in the fullness of time.
I used to say I had no fear of death but that, as it turns out was not true. I came to this belief because on two occasions, I came very close to buying the farm, kicking the bucket or biting the green weiner as it were.
The first time was when my girlfriend and I were returning to Iran from Afghanistan when I was 21-years-old. The Iranian border guard pulled me out of the van we were in and put me up against a wall aiming his submachine gun at my guts. He gleefully told me how the Iranian airforce had forced down a private plane nearby and they found one of their army generals in it with a load of drugs. He personally shot the officer at that very wall, and true or not, there were bullet holes in the wall. He then went on to tell me that he was absolutely certain we had hashish with us and it was either 20 kilos welded somewhere in our vehicle, or an ounce secreted on my girlfriend.
And he was right about the latter. That's what we had and where it was, bless her heart. He explained that if he did find the hash we would be shot on the spot. To say I was terrified would be an understatement. After a pause of a few moments, he told us that it was his dinner time and there were no women officers to search my girlfriend so we were free to go. We heard him laughing as we fired up the old van and puttered off into Persia.
The second time was less dramatic. Having contacted what was then called infectious hepatitis in art school, I was hospitalized. The first night I had the one and only "out of body"
experience of my life, looking down at myself from the ceiling. In the morning the doctor woke me with a cheerful, "Well, well, you made it through the night. We wondered about that." Nice.
It is my belief that the fear of death is composed of
the fear of the unknown, the fear of no further life as an individual being, and the fear of the process of dying. So to revise my original feelings about death, I don't fear the unknown nor the process because in the hallucinogenic sixties I experienced the "white light" as described by those who have had near death experiences. Thanks to lysergic acid diethylamide I felt the all knowing, all seeing, all powerful, everlasting power of God and his/her warmth and comfort for several hours. It was an amazing feeling of having no ego, and being at one with everything.
But now, in the cold clear light of day, I quite frankly am terrified of dying, and despite the fact that my personal belief is that life goes on after death in some form, in some other plain of existence, my ego is protesting. It's not that I think I'm any big deal, I just don't want to give this thing up. My heart isn't as evolved as my mind in this acceptance of one of the two absolutes in this relative world, birth being the other one.
I don't believe in heaven and hell, not as separate "places" we go on death according to our behavior on earth. I think heaven and hell exist right here and now. You create your own reality so
you can make your life on earth heavenly or hellish. I don't believe that God can be personified, certainly not as an old man with a white beard any more than I believe in a red horned devil with a tail and cloven hooves. But if there is a Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates, I kinda hope I passed muster, you know, at least a 51% good guy.
So where do we go when we die if not heaven and hell or, in the case of Catholics, purgatory, that waiting room in the sky? Who knows what exists in the hereafter? As I said earlier, I believe in the "white light" of the transition, although I'm not so sure you're met by someone you once knew who passed away before you who welcomes you and guides you to whatever awaits.
I neither believe nor disbelieve in reincarnation, but if it is true, and if I have been a good guy, then I'd like to come back as a cow in India, or a pig in Israel, or a dog in America. That would be heaven and hell would be coming back as a cow in Texas or pig in Louisiana or a dog in Hong Kong. If you have truely lived an exemplary life, maybe you come back as a tree or rock. What could be more peaceful than that?
Perhaps it is because I see the inevitable looming up before me, both due to age and the fact that I have two significant illnesses, one of which will require a lung transplant with all that entails. The reality can't be dodged any longer and although I'm not obsessing about my demise, I have been doing some thinking about it.
Eight kazillion billion people have been born and died in the history of this planet. Every one unique and special. So I believe that no king or queen, president or rich man, past, present or future is any more or less important than a pickpocket
in ancient Greece or a whore in...say Babylon, or a baker in 1940 in NYC or a homeless man on the street today. Therefore, legacies are ridiculous attempts by self important people in trying to preserve that which is to die, ergo their egos.
So, despite the fact that I felt LSD induced ego loss, I still fear the approaching loss of myself and I have to simply get over it.
There are the Five Stages of Grief; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance as espoused by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross which I believe also apply to death. And that is the road we all go down.
Having witnessed the deaths of my parents, I can attest to the fact that in the closing months of their lives, they did in fact know they were about to leave the building. And they were at peace with it. And therein lies my comfort.