Tag Archive: Dying


Near Death Experience

The other day I watched a David Nichtern video, it was one of three on something called Lojong Mind Training (they and others can be found here), which was a new term to me, from Buddhism, but apparently it is pretty foundational and important. I can’t remember everything it involves so I won’t reduce it by trying to explain what I can remember, but he said something about getting old and dying. He said that we can expect to live to about 70-90 years old. That was the span, but he mentioned ages in between which, for me, brought it into sharp relief. I’m 56, and I calculated the years between now and 70 years old and realised it is only 14 years. That brought me up really sharp. When you are 56, 14 years isn’t a long time, especially if you think that could possibly be the end of it all, as far as life’s opportunities on earth are concerned. I had watched another of his videos previously on old age, sickness and death and it had nowhere near the same impact on me as the mention in this video.

I thought about it, this sudden awareness of how short a time I had left, potentially, and I thought that from now on my life is, literally, a near death experience.  Many of us are afraid of death all our lives, sometimes manifesting in denial or defiance, from the point we understand it is going to happen to us.  People say that young people think they are immortal and will never die.  When I was young I think it was something I couldn’t get my head around, that I wasn’t going to live for ever and that, one day, I would be like a lot of the older people I saw.  I still can’t, really.  I have moments when I dread becoming incapacitated and being alone with it, maybe put into a care home.  I can’t imagine anything worse, given my own experiences in hospital and the stories of abuse that somehow manage to get out and go public.  It’s a bit like the way some people view mental illness.  It’s scary as a concept but they hope and think it is never going to happen to them.

I’m a pretty isolated person these days and, in some ways, always have been, so I don’t know how much I have in common with other people in this, it isn’t something I remember having talked about. But when I was in my teens I had this idea that I wouldn’t live beyond 20 or 21.  I just couldn’t see life beyond that point.  I wondered about it a lot.  Maybe it was a bit of a Victorian novel idea of dying young, and I suppose that, psychologically, that sort of thing might be described as a near death experience in the way I’m using the term for this post.  But it is very much an ‘in the mind’ thing.  I’ve known for a few years now that I have lived most of the life I am going to live.  I feel as if I’ve achieved nothing and there are things that are important to me, I like to think, that I would like to achieve, and potentially I now have ONLY 14 years left in which to do it.  Possibly even fewer.  Of course I don’t live with that intense awareness all the time.  If I did I’m sure it would be unbearable for me.  But, at the moment, it can loom over me like a sense of impending doom and fear of failure.  And I see myself beginning to understand and handle and cope with my life experience better than I used to, like little shoots of hope and growth, then I hit a wall and have these crashing waves of despair and regret and feelings like it is all a bit pointless to begin to feel this way NOW when the time I really needed it and it could have made a real difference in my life and perspective was when I was much younger.  It’s like, ‘what’s the point of this, now?  I’m going to die soon.  It’s too late.’.  It is preceded by real joy, but the joy is quickly extinguished in painful feelings of hopelessness and fear and it being too late, and that death is very close and ready to pounce.  Often, along with that, there are feelings of, ‘why didn’t I get this before?’ and ‘what have they done to me – and why?’.

I didn’t mean to end up here.  I feel as if I had better stop, I’m not sure where else to go with it.  I’m OK, though.  If some of my friends felt able to help me laugh about it that would probably be the right way for me to deal with it.  It feels that way at the moment, anyway.  Laugh at life’s tragedy, at least your own.  It’s the way forward.  As the song says, ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’.  I really think that, to a great extent, it’s a choice.

I hope you won’t mind that I have written this way and that some of you might find it helpful. Thinking about it, I’m thinking I might be describing what has often been termed a mid-life crisis, though maybe I’m past that age, I don’t know.  These days at this point I feel as if I should do a Google search.  Communication and accessibility of information are definitely changing since the birth of the internet.

And ANOTHER of my messy offerings flies into the ether!  I do love to write, though.

This Is Madness

I’ve read a bit more of this book and I’m finding it very interesting.  For me one of the most important things it says is that with physical illnesses diagnosis starts with something happening in the body and ends up with the diagnostic concept, but with ‘so-called’ mental illness it is the other way round, that it starts with a concept and mental conglomeration in the minds of physicians and they then go looking for people who fit the concept, like crusaders.  The concept is fleshed out in committee and applied to individuals, rather than subjective symptoms first being recognised in the individual and a remedy sought.  That is my memory of what was said in the chapter called ‘Diagnosis’.

I’ve just ordered another book as well called ‘Untrain Your Parrot’ by Elizabeth Hamilton.  It is a well grounded and often humorous approach to Zen.  The book is in the Multi-Faith room at the hospital but we are not allowed to take them out, and sometimes no one is there who can unlock the cabinet where the books are kept.  It makes sense that the books shouldn’t leave the room, it keeps them available and in good condition.  I have found that when I have spent time reading it in there I approach things in a better and lighter mood.  I’m looking forward to having my own copy because I think it is something that I will read and dip into more than once

I’m a lot more open and self-controlled on the ward these days, but I still feel angry, hurt and frustrated at what I see happening with other people.

I’ve got a bad cold at the moment.

We have started making approaches to accommodation.  It seems to me it could move either very quickly or more slowly than I would like.  I would like it to move quickly.

I’ve been reading a few ‘Freshly Pressed’ selections and really enjoying them.  They are so interesting.  I just read one called ‘There was no escaping his father’s words’ which made quite an impact on me.  It’s about a man who meets up in later life with his father who had told him that he was going from fad to fad and I felt those words from his father had partly shaped the man’s life.

I don’t feel able to write much more today.  I am generally feeling quite upset and that I need to cry.  That is what I usually feel inside.  I’ve had no intimacy for a very long time now, and I feel very much that I am getting old.  I am nearer death than birth.  For a wonderful period in my 30s I was unafraid, but now I feel a bit wobbly.  I’m not sure if I’m a real Christian, and I have been taught and believe that only Christians go to heaven.  I have not been taught to be a liberal, and my emotional attachments don’t really allow it.  I have been taught, and believe, that there is a hell for people who are not Christians.  I know to some people that will make me sound really archaic.  I have found myself praying that love and mercy will be my judge in the end, that love (God is love) will save me at death.  There is also the teaching that not everyone will die but Jesus will come back and some people who are living will be caught up to Heaven.  I suppose many people want to believe they will be among those who do not die.  I would like to live beyond 80, even to 100.  I’m afraid I will die much sooner.  I’m really afraid that I might go to hell, and I’m afraid that there will be no one who cares for me intimately when I die.  I have no children and no partner, and the only member of my family I am in contact with is my mother.  I would like not to feel so tired and worn out, and upset and vulnerable, and as if my time now is not worth anything and won’t be, that I have passed a point where there was a point.

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