Monday, June 16, 2008

Death: The Undiscovered Country

Just over a month ago, a good friend of ours was rushed to hospital with what looked like a mild heart attack. He was kept in for a couple of days while the doctor ran various tests. After the results came back he learned that he not only had pancreatic cancer, one of the most virulent sorts, but it had spread to his liver. It must have been there for quite some time and it was surprising that the first sign of it, the mild heart attack, had occurred so late.

That was shock enough, but then the doctor told him that he could be given chemotherapy but the cancer was so far advanced that it was unlikely it would do him any good and and would probably kill him faster. So he would be better off spending his remaining days in what comfort he could. The doctor also gave his wife the contact information for the local hospice.

Can you imagine being in that situation? To suddenly find out that you have only a few weeks left to live? It's a sobering thought.

Our friend is over seventy years old, and he has had a good life. He is also a Scientologist and so has the certainty that the death of his body is not the end for him. He knows that he is a spiritual being and that he will continue to exist when his body is gone.

Still, it isn't easy. My wife and his are very good friends and my wife is giving as much help and support as possible. Other friends are pitching in to help and make his last few weeks as comfortable as possible.

He seems to be reconciled with the death of his body and his biggest concern is not for himself but for his wife. How will she manage without him?

This sad situation caused me to wonder what the prospect of death is like for people of other religions and for atheists?

For me personally, because of Scientology, I don't have a fear of death. After my body dies, I will continue to live as a spiritual entity. My identity will not vanish. My memories will not be erased. My friends and loved ones won't be cut off from me forever. I know I'll be back in another body, living another life. So to me death is not the end of consciousness and awareness. Everything won't suddenly go black and silent. (See: The Parts of Man video for more information.)

People of other religions usually have some idea that they won't just cease to be, but what of the poor atheist? To him death is the "undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveler returns" (from Hamlet by William Shakespeare). Death must scare the pants off of atheists. Or at least it would me, if I were such.

I'd like to hear from anyone who reads this blog what they think of death and what they think is going to happen to them when their body finally gives out.

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