Why Do We Not Like Talking About Death?

In September 2015, when my mother passed away, both my brother and I were with her as she took her final breath. I remember thinking how beautiful she was. She’d been in a deep sleep for nearly a week and, over that week, she seemed to age quickly. But during the last ten minutes of her life, beauty and youth came back to her.

Can people nearing death hear us?

The medical staff told us to talk to Mum while she slept. ‘She’ll hear you’, were their words, but how could they have known? Had they once been near death’s door where they witnessed the voices of those still living, or had somebody who had experienced near-death told them what happens?

#family
My mother and grandmother. Taken January 1962 ©hughsviewsandnews.com

We took their advice and talked to Mum as if she was sitting there having tea and biscuits with us. However, occasionally, general chit-chat turned to tears as we told her how much we loved her and to go on her way with whoever was waiting for her. But how did we know that somebody was waiting for her?

Twelve hours earlier, Mum had briefly opened her eyes and looked up at me. I spoke to her and wondered if she knew who I was. I didn’t tell her who I was but made sure I told her that I loved her.

Having suffered from dementia for the last five years of her life, I asked myself if her condition was still stopping her from recognising me, and if she saw me as a stranger?

When she looked into my eyes, squeezed my hand gently and smiled, before closing her eyes again, I thought I knew the answer. However, years on, I still wonder if I did have the answer. Why? Because I didn’t have any proof of who she saw when she had looked up at me. However, at least she did know that she was loved.

Do books and movies hold the secrets to death?

Maybe the answers are in the fiction we read and watch? After all, whenever we read a book or watch a movie, are we witnessing what the author or authors believe about death?

When we read about a person being at ‘death’s door’, or watch a film where a death occurs, is the author sharing some of their experiences with us from a previous life they can’t quite remember?

What about those who claim to have witnessed the bright light that appears when they were near death? Are they talking from experience, or is it guesswork? Even if only a tiny amount of what they tell us happens, are they telling us what they have witnessed, or are they merely portraying it?

Do the lights go off when we die?

Is knowing you’re about to die, a gift?

Death is something many of us find difficult to talk about. When my step-father asked me to help him organise funeral plans for both him and my mother, it was something I didn’t want to talk about with him. I felt uneasy having to discuss it with him.

He, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have any problems in asking me to help him put the funeral plans into place. He’d already decided which company he wanted to use, how much he wanted to spend, and what would happen on the day.

After I agreed to help him, I wondered why he had chosen that time to ask for my help. He had, after all, been thinking about death because he already knew which company he wanted to use and what both funerals should include. Nine months later, he suffered a heart attack and passed away. Did he know that the actual day of his death was nearing?

Are the displays of death as beautiful as the displays of life?

Have I made any plans for my death? No. Why? There’s something about death that I don’t like talking about, yet here I am discussing it with you.

Talking about death makes people uneasy. None of us wants that, do we? However, in some circumstances, shouldn’t the discussion make us feel happy that it’s out in the open?

If talking about death takes pressure off others, why do we still not want to talk about it?

I knew that my step-father was glad when I helped him organise his and my mother’s funerals. He knew that nobody had anything to worry about when he and my mother passed away. It was all paid for, and nobody had to do anything apart from picking up a phone, and report their deaths.

Everything was taken care of. My step-father was happy, and I should be happy because some of the pressure he’d experienced with death was something I wouldn’t have to go through.

#death #life

If Hell is below us, why do we still bury some of the dead in the ground?

Can only the dead answer the questions we have of death?

Do you ever wonder who the last person will be that you will see before closing your eyes and allowing death to take you on your next journey? Is there another journey after death? Are there journeys for all of us, none of us, or just some of us?

Some of us still have a birthday to look forward to this year, while the rest of us may be looking forward to a birthday next year. But what about our death-day? During the last 12 months, we’ve all passed the date in the month we are going to depart this world (our death-day). Do you ever wonder about that date, knowing that it passes you by every single year?

Does not knowing the date of our death-day make us better people or make our lives any more comfortable? If you knew the date of your death-day, would you change anything about the way you live your life? Would you ensure you became a better person and make the most of every single moment of your life?

#death #trees #fog #life

Do we become isolated when we die?

Would you visit those you seldom see more often knowing that you may soon lose the chance ever to see them again?

Like my step-father did, would you ensure that loved ones are taken care of by preparing for your death? As well as celebrating a birthday, shouldn’t we all celebrate our death day?

Has the location of our death already been chosen for us?

I’ve often wondered about the place where I am going to die. Is that place already somewhere I know or is it somewhere I’ve yet to visit? Will it be at home? Will it be in a shop, theatre, cinema or a bar? What season will it occur? What day of the week will it be? Perhaps, Friday (the day I was born)?

Will I be with others who all have the same death-day as me, or will I be on my own? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be alone when death approaches me. I want to be with people (just as I was on the day I was born).

I’m not sure about being surrounded by my family and friends at the time of my death. I don’t like the thought of them watching me pass away. It wouldn’t be fair to them, would it?

However, being surrounded by total strangers seem alright. I wonder if those strangers are already in my life or if I’ve yet to encounter them?

I don’t like to think about myself dying in a hospital bed or on a beautiful beach in full sun. Although I love living by the sea, the feel of sand on my skin is something I’ve never been fond of experiencing, yet it’s beauty attracts me.

Rainbow over Swansea

Can I become a rainbow when i die?

I do like the thought of dying while sitting in front of the TV, especially if what I am watching is making me laugh or feel happy.

Does the way we’d like to die change as we grow older?

When I was younger, the thought of passing away while in a passionate embrace was something I thought was one of the best ways to die. However, as I grew older, I started to think about how unfortunate it would be for the person with me at the time. Now, I wouldn’t want to find myself in that position. Would you?

Final thoughts

When I pass away, will anything or anybody replace me? How do I convince people not to be sad that I am no longer here? I want them to celebrate my life, not my death. Does grief have to come hand-in-hand with death? Even if it is a stranger who has just entered my life when I close my eyes for the final time, any sadness will be erased away by time, won’t it?

There is something about death that I do know. While we are still here, we should do all we can to ensure that the sadness that often comes with death is not the kind that buries its roots deeply into those that we leave behind.

Do the dead leave us behind, or are we leaving them behind?

Copyright © 2019 hughsviewsandnews.com – All rights reserved.

141 comments

  1. Hearing is the last sense to go…or so I’ve heard.
    When I go, I’m going to be set on fire and have my ashes thrown into the nearest dumpster.
    No service…no marker…no remembrance of any sort.
    I don’t want people bearing flowers and wiping away crocodile tears…who wouldn’t give me the time of day when I was alive.
    Alas…this includes my own children.
    Great post.

  2. I have told my loved ones, I don’t want a funeral when I die. I want them to have a picnic with lots of good food and I want everyone to share a good thought/memory about me.

  3. There’s not much point worrying about it – we won’t know till we get there. I won’t be arranging my funeral with my kids. For one thing, I wouldn’t want to burden them with the belief that my wishes had to be carried out – they can do what they feel they want to. The other thing is, I rather hope I shall be past caring, wherever I am – or I’m not. Funerals are for the living, not the dead.

  4. This is a great post, Hugh. I like to think your Mother knew who you were before she passed, and that she knew you loved her. In the 1980s, when so many people suddenly sickened and died, I noticed people died the way they lived: materialists who valued social status seemed to have unhappiest deaths. I wondered if this was because in death we lose it all. I also noticed people who had faith and a commitment to a cause greater than themselves had the most graceful deaths. I learned how to die from those people. When the AIDS epidemic started, the odds were high that I would be among the dying so I prepared. I made writing a priority and did my best to write my best in the time I thought I had left. I was terrified of dying without leaving a legacy. At one point, I volunteered to work with AIDS patients at San Francisco General. I discussed the physiological process of dying with many of the doctors and most said the brain is wired to die, so the moment of death is probably pleasant. I like to think they were right. How does facing death as an older man change things? I’m more accomplished, I have a better understanding of my place in the world, I participated in a social movement that won its battles and made life better for people, so I feel as if I’ve done my part to make the world a better a place. I still have a few battles to win before I’m ready to die, but if I die tomorrow I would not feel cut short, which is how I felt about dying in the 1980’s. As for what happens after death: I think we are eternal.

    1. You’ve achieved an incredible amount during your time, Rob. Like you, I want to leave this world, feeling that I have achieved most of what I was sent here to do. I also want to leave knowing that I made the most of my life and enjoyed most of it. I’ve always been fascinated by life and why we are born. There must be reasons why we are put here, just like there must be reasons why we die when we do.

      I am so grateful that I have lived long enough to see and do so much. And I believe that my life path still has a long way to go before it comes to an end. I am looking forward to meeting the people I have yet to encounter and to also live the rest of my life to the full.

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about this subject and for also reblogging the post.

  5. Hi Hugh – fascinating post and comments to read about – thanks for writing it up … most has been said – I was with my Ma when she died in 2012 .. but only just made it … and certainly wasn’t ready for it as such. I was ready in that she’d been confined to bed for over 5 years with major strokes, but thankfully her brain was still functioning … the experience taught me a lot. I do believe we see things … perhaps another time scale – I don’t have it – but have experienced others who do .. and my mother occasionally was convinced there were other people around.

    Thanks for writing it up for us … I think we all learn so much in the blogging fraternity circle – all the best Hilary

    1. Hi Hilary,

      Thank you for joining the discussion about this fascinating subject.

      ‘Another time scale’ – that sounds very interesting. It reminds me of those who say that their whole life is flashbacked to them as they die. I wonder if the ‘other people’ your mother spoke of were those she knew, strangers, or a mixture of both?

      I’m overwhelmed by how well this post has done. I didn’t think many readers would want to talk about death. It seems I was very wrong.

      Have a lovely weekend.

  6. A lot of questions indeed Hugh and like many other people have said, very thought provoking. I lost my dad to the big C when I was 22 and as he wasn’t at all religious, (as I am not), his wishes were not to have a funeral. He couldn’t think of anything worse than his beloved family being in a church and he being talked about by somebody who didn’t know him with us all crying and being morbid and sad. He was very black and white when it came to this subject. You live, have your life, then you die – that’s it, the lights go out. Ok, we adhered to his wishes, but what he hadn’t thought about was the affect that would have on us, well me in particular. I struggled for months after, I didn’t know why, until a specialist explained to me that I hadn’t been allowed to greave. We as humans need to say goodbye to our loved ones as part of the grieving process. I was stuck in the process. It’s strange now to think about it as it was so long ago, but as I wasn’t with my dad when he passed and he didn’t have a funeral, I was left with a degree of anger toward him, (this man I loved dearly) and it ate me up. I wish we’d have talked as a whole family about his decisions on this subject, because that is the one thing I’ve taken from this. Talk about death, about what will happen after death, about feelings. It doesn’t have to be a sad conversation just an honest one 🙂

    1. Sam, thank you for sharing these details with us.

      My stepfather was the same as your dad. He didn’t want any church service for him or my mother. He told me ‘no vicars, and nobody to dress in black.’ After he died, some found this difficult to accept and could not bring themselves not to wear black. He also did not want anyone turning up wearing a suit. However, on the day of his funeral, we had somebody do some non-religious readings at the graveside, and then all went back to the pub where my stepfather drunk. There, we were able to share memories, and despite there being no church service, I somehow still felt that he had had a funeral. I adhered to his wishes because it was me he shared them with, but some of the family thought I’d made them up and had arranged the funeral how I’d wanted it. It went on to cause friction which still exists today.

      That’s why your point about talking to each other about our deaths (and what we want) is so valid. I only wish I had asked my stepfather to write his wishes down. Whether he would have is another thing, but this lesson taught me to be more open about death. And, as you rightly point out, it doesn’t have to be a sad conversation.

      Thank you again, for sharing the experience of your father’s death with us.

  7. I’m a new reader to your blog, and enjoyed this piece. Lots of food for thought. I especially liked the idea of sharing your death day with others, so as not to be alone. When I was younger and used to work in palliative care, I had patients who wanted to die with all their loved ones in the room, and others who would wait until after they had all left, so as not to upset them. They wanted privacy for the final step. I think I would prefer privacy, but I quite like the idea of getting on a train/bus/cloud with all the others who share your death-day, riding off to your next adventure in eternity!

    1. Thank you, Joni, and a big welcome to you here on Hugh’s Views and News.

      I like the thought of joining everyone else who has the same death-day as me and journeying off with them to our next adventure. I think something like that makes the idea of passing away less frightening. It certainly helps in that we won’t be alone after death.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us on this subject of this post.

  8. Very interesting ruminations on this topic. Many of which I have not considered even though I think I’ve pondered the topic too much in my “life “time. My thoughts on the topic have changed greatly as I’ve aged and lost loved ones. For now, I prefer to view death as a “transformation.” Your step-father did you a great service. There’s nothing worse when a parent has made absolutely no provisions for their date with death and you are left to decide in a time of heightened emotions. I think it’s beautiful that you told your Mom she was loved, not knowing whether or not she recognized you. something good for all of us to remember should we find ourselves in a similar situation.

  9. Listening to beautiful music would be a good way to go – the best moments in a live concert when you are already feeling out of this world – However, that would not be too good for the rest of the audience! So I’ll settle for the radio being on. And what after that – our energies dissipated with all the others dying at that moment? Reincarnation – very risky, most people in the world have worse lives than us. I don’t know the answers and we might have to wait till someone blogs from the other side!

    1. Now, there’s a thought about somebody blogging from the other side. It would make an excellent prompt for a short story, novel or movie.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us about death. Listening to music is a good one. After all, it’s something that will often help me sleep.

  10. Hi Hugh,
    I must commend you on selecting an excellent thought-provoking subject. Unfortunately, I recently experienced this with the death of my husband last January. It happened so suddenly there was not much conversation. His only words as it occurred was he couldn’t feel anything. His response leads me to believe he was not in any pain and was aware of what was happening. In 2013 I was diagnosed and treated for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. After one of my rounds of chemo, my blood count plummeted, and I was hospitalized. Hours after being admitted, I went into respiratory arrest. In the beginning, I was panicking, but suddenly, I had a vision of a face forming from a cloud as I looked out the window. A calm came over me, and I believe I was looking at the higher power I call God.
    I agree that most of us have fear at some level of death. Most of us have had experiences around this mystery, but in many cases, it is not something we should fear. If we believe in the love for us from a higher power, we should accept this love that when our death comes, it will not be a horrible experience.
    Woody Allen was quoted, “It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
    Thanks for an excellent post. HUGS

    1. Thank you, Chuck. To be honest, I’ve been somewhat taken aback by the response to this post. Given the title I gave the post, I honestly thought there would not be many readers willing to share their thoughts and experiences. How wrong I was!

      The words said to you by your husband are very reassuring. I think many of us fear the pain we may feel when death approaches us. It’s certainly something that I fear more than anything about death. I didn’t mention it in the post, but if I had a choice of how I could die, I’d chose to die while asleep.

      Thank you for sharing your near-death experience with us. There are so many variations which I have read and heard about near-death experiences. Somebody else mentioned in a comment that these variations could all be down to the way we think what will happen when we die. It may sound like something from a sci-fi movie, but it’s an interesting thought.

      I like the quote from Woody Allen. It’s a nice one, but has me wondering that if we’re not there at the time of our deaths, then who or what has taken over that final moment from us?

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I enjoyed reading them.

      Hugs.

  11. Goodness, Hugh, such big questions! I don’t have any answers. Would I behave differently if I knew my death-date? I doubt it. I think of the number of friends who died young and each time I would tell myself to take it as a reminder to live life to the full every day – but then slide back into fretting about things which are pointless worryng about, putting off doing the things on the bucket list. It’s a thought-provoking post.

    1. Thanks, Mary. I’m glad that many of you have seen this post as thought-provoking. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us on the subject. Like you, I keep telling myself to live life to the full. It’s something I try and do every day. The results have been excellent, although I do know I can do better.

  12. You’ve given us much to think about in this post, Hugh. Taking your headline question first: no, I wouldn’t want to know my date of death in advance. Whilst it might be helpful to be able to put everything in place, I can’t see any other way in which it would help me enjoy my final days. Maybe that’s selfish, but I say it with the knowledge that I have bought a funeral plan to take care of all of the arrangements so that I have taken as much pressure as possible off my daughters. I too saw my mother suffer with dementia, but even after she lost the ability to speak I always saw a sparkle of recognition in her eyes when I visited her. It still comforts me when I think of her now, eleven years after her passing, that she knew me until the end. My father is still with us, and will be 92 in October. Your point about spending time with those we love is well made, and strikes a chord with me. I think I’m more afraid of losing Dad than I am about my own future, if I’m being totally honest.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences of death with us and answering some of my questions, Clive.

      Do you mind me asking if your daughters are aware of the funeral plan you have arranged? If they do know, how did they react when you approached them about the subject?

      Have you heard the quote – ‘Don’t visit me and bring me flowers when I am dead. Visit and bring me flowers while I am still alive.’ It’s a quote I came across while doing some research for this post. It really hit home with me of how little I visit family and friends who may not have as much time left as I do.

      The other thing about those people is the memories they have, which may be lost once they pass away. When I do visit elder relatives, their memories and experiences of life are something I enjoy talking to them about. One of my highlights is now visiting my sole surviving aunt, who is 93 next year. She has a suitcase full of older photographs which we’re gradually going through. She has given some of them to me. At a later date, I intend passing them on (with information of who they are and where they were taken) to nephews and nieces. There’s no guarantee these memories will live forever, but I’m delighted to be able to pass them on.

      1. Hi Hugh. I mentioned to my daughters that I was intending to buy a funeral plan in the aftermath of my Mum’s funeral, but we didn’t really discuss it. They probably won’t remember that now, and I know I should remind them of it. I also need to update my will as I don’t think I mentioned it in there. They are both quite practical people so I don’t think it will upset them!

        I’ve heard quotes similar to that, and it is a sentiment that resonates with me. We should all make that effort – it’s no good waiting until it’s too late and thinking ‘what if?’ It’s lovely that you have those memories to share with your aunt and to pass on – our family doesn’t have anything like that, and I wish we did.

        1. Does your father have any old photographs, Clive? It may be worth asking him. Until I asked my aunt the question, she’d forgotten about the suitcase she had full of old photographs. As we go through them, they bring back lots of happy memories to her. We have, however, come across some photos where she has no idea who the people in them are.

        2. I’m afraid he doesn’t. I had that conversation with him a while back. After my parents divorced Mum kept the photo albums, and my sister and I didn’t find them after she died – I guess they got lost in various house moves over the years. You’re lucky to have those photos – they are to be treasured, even the anonymous ones.

  13. I remember discussing my dad’s funeral with him before he died. It started out as an uncomfortable conversation but by the time we’d finished, we were both quite enthused about the whole thing. And the funeral was brilliant when it happened. I know he’d have loved it.
    Some people aren’t comfortable talking about death, but it isn’t going away any time soon, so we do need to be more open about it. I’m in the fortunate position of having nearly died at birth. I say fortunate, because it means every day I have on this planet is a bonus. If I go tomorrow, I’ve been very lucky. We have to make the most of our time here, and we have to spend it with the people we want to spend it with. Fewer regrets that way.

    1. I think many of us would be relieved after discussing our funeral arrangements, Graeme. The problem for many seems to be able to open the door to something that we see as a horrible and unhappy event. If it’s talked about, it can certainly take off a lot of pressure when the time comes. Despite being shocked and not wanting to talk about it at first, I was thankful that my stepfather took the steps in approaching me to ask for my help in putting arrangements into place. Writing this post has certainly given me the drive to put arrangements in place for both my funeral and that of my partner.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences on this subject.

  14. What a thought-provoking post, Hugh, with lots of questions, some of which I may be able to answer and some not. I do think about my death and funeral and have a few ideas about my farewell. However, I haven’t made any firm plans yet. I keep thinking I must do that. I’m hoping for a more environmentally friendly way to deal with my remains before I go. I guess that means I’m not planning on bowing out any time soon. I’m not sure if Death has other plans for me though. Who knows?

    1. And who knows if it’s ‘death’ that has those plans for us, Norah? Maybe it’s ‘life’ that has the plans for our deaths?

      Your comments reminded me of my sister-in-law, who has told us that she wants her body donated to science after she passes away. This somewhat worries me, because if they take away specific organs etc., does that mean she won’t have them when she gets to wherever it is we go when we die?

      I keep thinking that I must prepare for my death, yet it’s something I keep putting off, too. Maybe, as others have mentioned, it’s because it’s not a subject most of like talking about.

      I do like what you say about being more environmentally friendly when it comes to our bodies after death. Given today’s worries about climate change, I wonder if it’s something that is already offered?

      1. I guess life and death are all part of the one journey, aren’t they? But we know which one will win the battle eventually.
        I wonder about donating organs too, but what a wonderful gift. You can’t be more generous than that.
        Neither burial nor cremation are very environmentally friendly. There are already environmentally friendlier options but they’re not available everywhere. I heard about two on TED talks that I like the sound of. One involves a mushroom body suit that decomposes the body into useful compost. The other is like a sack that contains the body and a tree seed which is planted to form a forest. Either of those would do me.

        1. I like the idea of my body in a sack with the seed of a tree, Norah. Just imagine all the new trees it would create if we were all taken care of that way? All those new trees absorbing all the extra carbon-dioxide we humans have put in the atmosphere. It’s a great idea.

  15. Hi, Hugh – I was thinking about this topic earlier today. This morning, I read a quote from Jane Fonda on her brother’s recent passing. “I have had beautiful alone time with him these last days. He went out laughing.” I believe that this is something that we would all wish for ourselves and our loved ones. Thank you for the very thought-provoking post.

    1. Agreed, Donna. I hope I go out laughing. It makes me think that we should all do as much as possible to ensure that we go the way we want to go. I don’t like the thought of anyone passing away on their own or during a sad time. I think it’s in our hands that we can help prevent that from happening. I’m sure some would disagree, but I’m going to do all I can to ensure I don’t pass away while lonely or sad.

  16. A very poignant and beautiful post, Hugh. Also, a very relatable story. We went to a Celebration of Life this Summer. My husband’s sister had passed away. She had made many preparations for the Celebration of Life. Many unanswered questions about death. The word that now seems to be frequently used is “transitioning” from one phase of our journey to another. A thought-provoking post. I don’t have the answers about death. I do know how I want to appreciate every day of my life:)

    1. Thank you, Erica.

      I’ve attended a few ‘celebrations of life.’ They can be rather sombre events, yet I like the thought of my life being celebrated.

      I’ve not heard of ‘transitioning’ from one life to another, but something which has stuck with me is hearing somebody who knew they about to die say ‘we are about to leave this world…’ It was said during a horrible situation, yet those words have stuck with me.

      1. Sorry about the horrible situation, Hugh, forever etched in your mind. Lots of thoughts and words ‘out there’ on dying, death and afterwards. Always a thought-provoking and often emotional discussion.

        1. I think words we hear in a horrible situation can often stay with us longer than those we may hear in a different situation, Erica. I’m glad this post has been so thought-provoking for so many of you.
          Thanks again for adding your voice to the discussion.

  17. This is surely a profound topic to think and reflect on, Hugh! I just know that my father-in-law could hear us (my hubby and me). After being in coma for days, he opened the eyes to look at us as soon as we entered the hospital room. He smiled at us. My sister in Hong Kong could hear us hours before she passed away. She was unconscious when arriving the hospital. We siblings were in Hong Kong attending a wedding so we were there to see her. She was very stressful on her face. We touched her, help her hand, talked to her, telling her we loved her and everyone was there for her. Her face started to be relaxed. She passed within four days.

    My son-in-law’s mother knew exactly when she’d go. She told me there was someone sitting next to me when I was in her room. After talking to her nephew, apparently, this “someone” came before, but she didn’t go with “her” because she wanted to be there for her son’s birthday. After the birthday party, when I was with her alone, she told me she was going “home” on (the following) Monday. And she did.

    Now my mother-in-law openly talked about her death and the arrangement. We are not avoiding the conversation since she doesn’t seem to be afraid.

    1. So it seems, Miriam. I’m delighted with the response the post has had. The comments have been fascinating.

      Thank you for sharing your experiences of death with us. What happened before your sister’s passing reminded me of something else that happened in the leadup to my mother’s death. My sister lives in Australia and wasn’t with us when my mother died. However, somebody (and I can’t remember who) said that perhaps the reason why my mother would not pass was that she wanted my sister to have a chance to say her goodbye. I contacted my sister and arranged for her to talk to Mum via my iPhone. It was heartbreaking sitting there, listening to my sister while she spoke, but Mum passed away the following morning.

      With what you have shared with us, and with what happened after my sister said her goodbyes, it does make me feel lots more confident that my mother could hear us before she passed away.

      Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.

  18. Hugh, you raise so many important concepts about death. You wrote a lot and spent time with this post! As a Christian, I know upon my death, my soul will spend eternity with the Lord. Will I be with the Lord after my last breath, or will I sleep (or RIP) until the world ends? Not sure, but I do know that upon my death that I hope I was doing something I loved when I keel over. Since death is inevitable for all of us, my day will come and I will gladly take Jesus’ hand when He lifts me into eternity.

    1. I started drafting this post in 2017, Terri. It stayed in my draft folder for a long time. Then, a few weeks ago, I rewrote it. I was still adding to it a few minutes before publishing it but thought it was already too long a post. I’m so pleased that I decided to publish it, and am delighted with the response it has got.

      Thank you so much for adding your thoughts and voice to the subject.

  19. Those are a lot of questions we may never learn the answers to until we get to that other side Hugh. I, like you, hate talking about death. My own husband brings it up from time to time, where we should be buried and all things related and I cringe, and often get upset. I don’t want to think about it or talk about it – it will be hard enough when the time comes. And no, I wouldn’t want to know my expiration date, I’d probably worry about it for the rest of my life. In the meantime, I try to live every day to its fullest. ❤ Great topic though! 🙂

  20. Hugh, your thoughts are or were exactly my thoughts. When I was younger I refused to talk about death or even about people who passed away. Later I could at least talk about them but still did not want to think of death. But since I started my journey, and tried to look behind the curtain as good as I could, improved my medial skills, listened more to my inner self, I lost that completely. It has become the most normal thing for me to talk about death as I talk about life. Of course, I won’t claim that I know what comes behind, it is more a feeling but that suffices for me. I am fine with that truth of mine. I see death not as an ending of life but as a part of it. Life has no end and we are not ending, we only change form. Of course, this belief doesn’t keep from sadness when a loved one dies but it makes you look at it and deal with it differently. When my father died in 2012 it was a shock that he was gone but I could handle death itself. I have been in peace with that part of life. However, we may only know how it really is and what comes after once we experience it ourselves… but who knows, perhaps even there are differences. Maybe we experience death or the after-life subjectively in the way we believe how it is… again… we will see…
    This is such a great post, Hugh. Very inspiring and thought-provoking.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us, Erika.

      Just like retirement plans, I think death is something many of us do not seem to worry or think about during our younger days. When life is in full swing, why worry about something that is a long way off? But, as we look back, doesn’t time seem to have gone by so quickly? I can’t remember thinking about death much when I was younger, even though I had a few friends who passed away at a young age. Of course, I was sad when they passed away, but with the dawning of a new day, my busy life went on. Maybe we have more time to think about death as we grow older?

      Something that struck me for the first time only last year was how the list of people I send out Christmas cards to had shrunk. For a moment, it became a big deal to me, yet I later knew that it was something that was always going to happen. At a younger age, that list always grew, not shrink. It’s strange how and why these little instances seem to appear. And, am I right calling it a ‘little instance’ when I find myself mentioning it to you in this comment? It’s obviously stayed with me.

      I especially enjoyed this part of your comment – ‘Maybe we experience death or the after-life subjectively in the way we believe how it is… again.’ For me, if that is what happens, I won’t ever fear death. It’ a lovely thought which made me think of a short story I wrote which involved what happened to me just before my death.

      Thanks again for adding your voice to this subject.

      1. What you said about the shorter list of Christmas cards made me think too when I read it. It is true. Those seemingly little instances open windows to make us look a little closer and all of the sudden the moment comes when we refer it to ourselves. I think it is very good that this happens. It is part of getting older and more experienced. It is part of how we look and appreciate life or how we begin to see everything in a bigger picture.

        I think when I found my own belief about death and what comes after I also began to look differently at life itself and how I live it.

        You really hit a big topic here. It is interesting since I wrote about death too a week ago. It looks as if this seems something which we really should pay more attention and lose our fear.

        Have a wonderful rest of your day, Hugh, and thank you for your detailed and open reply.

  21. Dear Hugh , I cannot answer any of you questions but I can assure you that your mum saw you, knew you and loved you, and knew you loved her in that brief flash.
    Sorry that is a massive sentence take a breath.
    Both my mum and dad had been lost to us prior to their deaths. Yet they both had a moment of clarity it just before they died and saw us and knew us.
    Both my hubby and I have arranged and paid for our funerals so that our lads will not have the stress of sorting anything out.
    None of us know when or where the moment will come but , it will.💜💜💜

      1. Yes Hugh they do it is all set out for them . It was a mixed reaction really I think they’d rather not think about it but also relief that it is sorted. On a lighter not their not keen on my musical tastes 😜. It is a great weight off our shoulders knowing it is done. It’s not for everyone, my mother in law flatly refuses to sort hers out at all. Get aggressive if anyone mentions it. Hubby and I will have to sort that out if and when. She is 99yrs old and has no intention of going anywhere soon 😀💜

        1. She will Hugh, we will be requesting it for her soon, it is no longer sent unless you apply with proof! Plus we have just booked the tearooms for her 100th Birthday next year! 💜

        2. I don’t think so but you do with date of birth , the same with a 60th Wedding Anniversary card from her too, my eldest sister had one of those here family had to send in a copy of her marriage certificate 💜💜

  22. Wow! This is a very deep, thought-provoking post, Hugh!
    I always feel that the dead are never really gone, in that our memories of them keep them with us, if we want them to stay.
    Equally, I feel their spirit needs to move on to give them peace.
    I am not great with death. It scares me to think of certain people in my life going. I know I have memories, but it upsets me, nonetheless. Still, my Pops always tells me that we need to keep the memories alive, because the world keeps turning, no matter what happens.
    He always talks about when his mother passed away. He was studying in Bombay and she was in Kenya. Phonecalls were not cheap, and there was no such thing as email or texts, so he received the news in a letter. But he didn’t gireve in the same way as he realised, once he worked out the dates and times, that when she died, he had been on stage, dancing, and the next two weeks, after she had left this mortal coil, so to speak, while he didn’t know, nothing in his life changed…
    But he still felt her with him, all the time.
    I think I may have gone off on a tangent!

    1. Thanks so much for adding your thoughts and details of the experience your father had of his mother’s death, Ritu.

      It does make me wonder if that is what your grandmother wanted when she passed away. As your father said, ‘the world keeps turning’, so maybe she wanted him to carry on enjoying life while she departed? I wonder if she knew what he was doing as she passed away? If she did, I’m sure she would have been delighted that he was happy and enjoying life.

      During my life, I’ve often felt a presence watching over me. I’m positive it’s my Grandmother (who appears in the photo with my mother in this post). I’m convinced she has guided me into making the right decisions after her death. Of course, I can’t prove that she has, but something tells me that she has.

      1. I think if you have those feelings, Hugh, then it is true, for you.
        When I had that awful accident, a couple of years ago, I was convinced it was my cousin, whose funeral I’d attended that morning, who guided my car and stopped anything worse from happening 🙏🏽💜

        1. So it’s happened to you, too? I wonder if there is any truth behind what we’ve both experienced? I’ve heard it said that some people have been told to go back when they have died. I’ve never had an ‘out of body’ experience, but I’ve read a lot about them.

          Thanks for sharing that experience with us, Ritu. It makes me even more curious.

        2. And my cousin who had passed, was a car mechanic… It just slots into place totally. I think there’s a lot to be said for souls passed and what happens to them 🙏🏽💜

  23. Man, Hugh. You ask a lot of excellent questions. I think as we age we become less fearful about death. It seems to be a natural progression and one that each can prepare for in his/her own way. I think your stepfather knew to get things in order and I’m sure was grateful that you were there to help. I think your mom knew you and only had so much energy to let you know that she loved you as well. A smile and a squeeze tells a lot.

    1. This part of your comment got me asking more questions, John – ‘I think as we age, we become less fearful about death.’ I would have thought that as we got closer to death, we would get more fearful of it, but maybe when we look back and reflect on our lives, it doesn’t seem to matter to us as much? The biggest problem I have with death is not knowing when and how it’s going to happen. Then again, do I really want to know those details? If I don’t, then it shouldn’t be a problem. I feel like I have got myself on a roundabout ride which I can’t get off, and all answers lead me back to where I started from. It’s all fascinating, though.

      Thank you so much for your reassurances about the questions I asked about my stepfather and mother.

      1. The run to eternity has by its nature uncertainty that leads to anxiety. Yet we all know we are not going to escape that final day. The prep for it should include an acceptance that we are not in control. Once we give up control it is easier to deal with the eventuality. Giving up control is the hardest part. As one ages it becomes easier to give up control. (or so it seems to me) Again , super post, Hugh

  24. Mom, my daughter and I were with Grandma when she passed away. Four generations. I thought about that a lot in those last moments. Maybe, we didn’t always get along, but we were as close as a family could be. Grandma was our matriarch- how would we survive without her?
    Life carries on once our loved ones are gone, but the best of them remains with us- embedded in our hearts and memories.
    I don’t fear death- I just hope it comes with dignity ❤

    1. Your comment got me thinking about how sad it can sometimes be that only death can bring people together. Whether those people don’t get on or do, it’s unfortunate that we don’t makeup while we still can or see more of each other. It makes the saying ‘Life is too short’ so accurate.

      Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Jacquie.

  25. I don’t think that death is the end – I’ve had proof of that via mediums. My mother asked me to arrange her funeral 2 years before she passed. It seemed strange sitting in the undertaker’s parlour arranging a funeral for somebody still alive, but the undertaker said people do this all the time.

    1. Thinking about it, I guess anyone has the ability to arrange a funeral at any time they want or to ask for help. What I’m trying to work out is why my step-father chose that time to ask me to help arrange his and my mother’s funeral. He looked healthy at the time of asking, yet died nine months later. My mother passed away five months after he did. I wonder if he knew they were both near to death?

  26. Such a profound reflection, Hugh. I’m not sure there are definitive answers since we are all different in our comfort levels with death and our beliefs and circumstances, personalities and lives. To me, there is so much we don’t know that I naturally assume anything is possible – the clarity, the perception of love, the light, the loved one’s greeting us on the “other side,” each life being one step on a much longer journey. All possible. With my parents’ recent health challenges I’ve been talking with them a lot about death, love, end of life wishes. I find comfort in it, versus fear, and I’m glad to be having these profound conversations during such a monumental time of meaning-making. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and questions. It’s a poignant topic, but one worth our reflection. ❤

    1. Although I was very uneasy about talking to my step-father about his and my mother’s funerals, I now see how much he was helping me, Diana. He also got a lot of comfort out of it and knew that there was someone who knew exactly what was to be done after their deaths. He didn’t want anyone to worry or feel sad after they had gone. What mattered most to him was that his and my mother’s paths had crossed and stayed together during their lives. He also insisted that nobody wear black at their funerals, something I know many found hard to accept, but those were his wishes.

      I think because many of us don’t understand what happens after we die, it prevents many of us talking about it to each other. Yet you (just like my step-father) have shared with us just how comforting it is to talk about it.

      I was sorry to read about your parents’ ill-health over on your blog. It’s something that many of us will/have gone through. You are helping so many people by sharing your experiences.

      1. Thanks for the kind comment, Hugh. I save most of the gritty details for my brother, who’s a wonderful cohort and support, but I feel a need to share a tiny bit on the blog as well, to explain my absence at least. ❤

  27. This was a great post with a lot I could comment on, but I’ll just pick a couple.
    I too have talked to numerous family members as they passed. I do believe hearing is the last to go.
    Last Friday, I also visited my sister with Alzheimers, who I no longer know if it’s me she smiles at or who she sees.
    I often think about whether it would be better to know, or not, when I’ll pass. I’ve never come to a decision. Most of my family members have known.
    If I did, I would like to think it wouldn’t change how I act, other than I would clean out, organize, visit, as much as energy would allow. Plus, I would like to write letters to loved ones.

    1. Thank you so much, Kathy. It’s a subject that has always fascinated me. I started drafting this post in 2017 yet never dared to publish it. Now, I’m wondering why I questioned publishing it.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us. I think I know how much my life would change if I knew when I was going to die. Now I’m questioning myself as to why I don’t turn to that lifestyle given that I know what I would do?

        1. I’m glad I finally pushed the ‘publish’ button on this post, Kathy. It’s a subject that many seem to not want to discuss, yet people are talking about it here. I’m pleased they are.

  28. Fascinating topic. And perhaps it crops up the older we get. I didn’t give it much thought until I passed the age of 50. It hit home forcefully when my beloved grandparents died. The fear for me is the unknown. And that once dead, I will be forgotten as if I was never here. For some reason I find that terrifying.
    Also terrifying – losing the ability to communicate as death approaches.
    My husband and I have put together a small file box with important documents for our adult children to access when the time comes. We call it the “death box” but our kids are not interested in its details. We also bought a burial plot.
    I wonder about those who claim to speak to the dead. I sometimes have a strong sense of presence of a loved one who has died, so who knows? However, I will admit that I don’t relish the idea of possibly spending the afterlife with a few people who made my life miserable here on earth!!

    1. It is a frightening thought that we will be forgotten forever once we die. And, as time goes on, I guess it is something that will happen to many of us. I only have to think about those who died a hundred years ago to know that the majority have probably been forgotten about. Memories do help keep us being remembered, but it won’t be long before everyone who had a memory of us is also gone. We will all probably take many memories with us that will never resurface ever again. It’s one of the reasons I now talk more about the past with my 87-year-old father and my 92-year-old aunt (his sister). Once they have gone, a whole generation (and memories) will also go.

      I’m so pleased that you and your husband have put together a ‘death box’. It sounds a little like what my step-father did when he spoke to me about his and my mother’s death. Your kids may not be interested because they do not want to talk about it. However, when the time comes to open the box, you and your husband will have done so much to make it easier for them. I’m sure you both are, but you should be very proud of what you have done and put in place.

      As for meeting those again who made our lives miserable, I wonder if they will be different if we do meet them again after death?

      1. Thank you for this perspective. In the great scheme of things everyone is eventually forgotten. Perhaps a few of the famous will live on in history books, so I’ll have lots of company going into obscurity. Regarding your last thought – I guess I can only hope you’re right!
        I’m also glad you are back blogging 🙂

  29. I think about death and not just because I’m getting older. My favorite cousin and best buddy died in a tragic accident when I was 5 years old. My family did not shelter me from the reality of what happened, but allowed me to be part of the grieving process. My family has been open about the inevitability of death and all of us kids were well aware of our parents’ wishes about their end of life care and funerals. I’ve talked about my wishes with my husband and son. I won’t deny that dying scares me but it is not because of fearing what comes next. It is more about the fear of how and when it will happen. I don’t relish suffering. I wish more people could be open about death since it is something all humans must experience. Lots of great questions, Hugh!

    1. Thank you for sharing your experiences of death with us, Molly.

      Well done for already having spoken to your family about what you want when you die. I’m the same in that it’s the way I am going to die that I fear the most. Having watched my mother die the way she did, I don’t ever want to go the same way as she did. From my point of view, the last few years of her life were terrible. For at least two weeks before she did die, we were told by the staff that she was about to die, yet she seemed to fight it and carry on. I wonder if she was fighting it and didn’t want to go? Given the cause of her death, I would have thought she would have wanted to depart this world so quickly.

      After her death, my uncle (her brother) told me that many on my mother’s side of the family fought death and took a long time to pass away. At the time, it made me smile because I could just imagine my mother being insistent that she didn’t want to go…just yet.

  30. This post is really a topic, Hugh. Many don’t like to talk about the death, like we can avoid it by not talking about it.
    About your question with your mother, if she could hear you, I will allow myself to answer by experience: When I was in coma two years ago, the doctors didn’t know, if I would wake up again. There were no promises. What did call me back was the sound of my two adult kids, who were talking to me. Their voices I couldn’t leave. Is that an answer?
    I don’t think, it is bad for family and friends to be there, when we leave. I feel, it is more bad not to allow them to stay there and say their goodbye for now.
    I don’t have anything planned for my death and I hope, that I don’t need to for years.
    I think, that the dead people leave us.

    1. You’re right, Irene. If we don’t talk about something, it won’t happen, will it? That seems to be a reaction many of us have. However, on the other side of the coin, what about the things we do talk about and which never happen? I wonder if both are connected in some way?

      Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I’ve heard it said that hearing is the last sense to go when we die. Maybe what you experienced confirms that is true?

      1. I think, that we just need to learn to talk openly about everything, Hugh. This can reduce fear too.
        I was far away in that coma and experienced many strange things, while there. I was close leaving, this I do remember.

        1. Please do let me know if you ever do write about them, Irene. I’d be fascinated to know what you experienced.
          Again, thank you so much for sharing your experience of hearing your children’s voices when in a deep coma.

  31. I think if you believe that death is the end, it helps to put this life in its proper context, hopefully encouraging us to make it the best it possibly can be for everyone and everything on the planet. To assume that this life is only ever going to be a vale of tears, that real life begins after you’re dead, the cross we bear etc etc is a very convenient pretext for not doing anything to fight misery in all its forms. I was brought up a Catholic, and we taught to almost revel in unhappiness, because we could ‘offer it up’ to whom and to what end is never made clear. It was ‘good’ to be poor/sick/miserable/oppressed because you’d get into heaven quicker. We almost pitied the rich and comfortable because they’d get theirs when they died. Not a healthy attitude IMHO.

    1. Thanks, Jane. But there is always that ‘what if’, isn’t there? Maybe it’s why many still question if there is life after death? Since a very young age, I have certainly experienced a distant memory of another life, but I do wonder if it’s something I’ve made up rather than experienced. I can’t prove I did live before, but the thought does excite me. I don’t like the idea of never existing after I die, but should I even be worrying about that?

      I’m sure there are many different answers to my questions, with some of the responses coming from the faith a person may follow. Who knows? Maybe they are all right?

      1. We certainly remember things from a distant past that never happened. I used to think I remembered travelling across the Atlantic when I was a four-month old baby with my mother and father. It’s a false memory, but it’s very vivid and one I’ve ‘had’ as long as I can remember, a sort of self-fabricated myth.

        Nobody wants to die basically. One of the things that sets us apart from other animals is our belief that we as individuals are so vitally important to something or other that we can’t possibly be allowed to just return to compost. What would be a nice idea is one thing, what is likely is another entirely.

        Personally, I worry a lot more about old age than I do about death. Old age is something you actually have to cope with (assuming you get that far) but death is either the end, in which case there’s nothing to worry about, or it’s in the hands of some higher being, and on past performance, that possibly is something to worry about, so I’d rather not opt for that hypothesis.

        1. I wonder where these self-fabricated myths of a previous life come from? I wonder if they form when we first encounter the theory of ‘life after death’?

          I agree that old age is of worry. Years ago, I never encountered dementia. As people have gone on to live longer lives, it seems to now touch the lives of so many more of us. Loneliness is something else I hear more and more of since humans live longer. It does make me question if there are any benefits to living longer. For me, as I have got older, I feel as if I have become more and more isolated. Where did everybody go?

        2. Yes, the point is to live longer in good health. Ask someone with arthritis if she’d want to live another twenty years. I bet she’d say, no thank you very much.
          The ‘memory’ of me on an ocean liner dates back to before school. I’m sure I didn’t know what death was then and my mum had her hands too full of babies to be taking us to church so the priest hadn’t got to me either 🙂

  32. Death-Day…I’ve never heard that expression before and certainly never thought of each day as possibly being that one. Not sure I want to think about it…Nope, not thinking about it 🙂

      1. I think about death a lot, just not about that specific aspect of it. At first I thought creepy, but now I’m thinking comforting. New Year’s Eve you get to celebrate that you’ve gone the complete circle, and cheated death for another year 🙂

  33. I think about death a lot but not in a suicidal kind of way. I ask myself these questions people feel uncomfortable asking — questions whose answers they’re secretly dying to know.

    If I knew the date I’ll die, I’ll be a different person, perhaps even a better person. I would make the most the little time I have left. And I would probably die without any regrets.

    For most of us, death isn’t what scares us — rather, it’s the uncertainty of what comes after death. Even though I hold my beliefs as a Christian, I still have so many questions. I wonder, will I be reincarnated? If I will, as what?

    Will I be damned to roam the Earth? Or maybe when we die, we exist in the fourth dimension which is invisible to the ordinary eye. If so, is there some sort of ghost civilisation like in the movie, Coco?

    Unfortunately, if the dead are the ones with all the answers, we probably won’t get the answers we seek until we die. Unless there’s a ghost transmitter that enables us communicate with the dead. Or maybe… ESP?

    You’ve given me so much to think about today.

    1. Your last sentence pleased me so much. When somebody tells me that, I know I’ve done an excellent job of what I’ve written and published.

      I would happily sit in a room of people and talk about death. For me, it’s a fascinating subject that we know hardly anything about which can be proved is what happens. I’m more in the camp of being happy, not knowing the date of my death. I just wish that I could keep to the life I would lead if I knew what the date of my death was. Not necessarily the year, just the day and month. I think it would change life as we know it so much.

      Death does scare me because I don’t know how I’m going to die. For me, what happens after is more of a ‘so this is what happens’ moment. However, I get where you’re coming from when you say that for many, it’s what happens after their death that scares them the most.

      Of course, some people claim they can speak to the dead. But how do we know that they are actually doing just that? I’ve heard different versions of answers when somebody who has passed away has been asked the question ‘what happens after we die?’ Maybe, there are many possibilities, so all the answers are not incorrect?

      1. Concerning those people who claim they can speak to the dead (and those who say they died for a short while and later returned to their bodies), I don’t want to believe them, but I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff to know that what seems impossible may be more possible than we can imagine.

        Maybe the answers are not totally incorrect. Maybe these people are looking at the truth from different perspectives, but because of lack of information, or because the information is too complex to understand, they give their answers as much as their understanding can carry them. That’s why the answers are quite similar and yet so different.

        Will our curiosity ever be satisfied? There’s so much about the universe and about ourselves that we don’t know.

        1. So true. I think we know more about outer space than we do about death. And your thoughts about people who say they can speak with the dead or had experienced death but returned to their bodies got me thinking about those who claim to have time-travelled or encountered alien lifeforms. Maybe what they say is true but from a different perspective? Thank you for adding those thoughts.

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