A cheery post-Purim post (not) – attitudes towards death

My husband’s cousin is a psychologist, so when he came to us with his wife and children one weekend, I thought to myself, who better to talk to about this issue that had been preying on my mind.

A long time ago, I came across a website that provided fascinating information about longevity, and it stirred up a hornet’s nest of emotions inside me – anger, confusion, and frustration – and I wanted to use my cousin as a sounding board. (I know what you’re thinking – what a thrilling weekend it must have been for him – but the truth is that when you talk to most people about death, they will either: a) if they’re English, change the subject and talk about the weather; b) clam up completely; or c) chuckle nervously and look for the nearest exit out of the room. I figured that since my cousin deals with psychotic patients on a daily basis, my rambling thoughts shouldn’t give him too much cause for concern.)

Most people consider aging, and consequently death, to be an inevitable part of life, and therefore are of the opinion that you should live your life to the fullest and not spend too much time worrying about something that you cannot change.  My cousin pretty much corroborated the approach voiced by many about the inevitability of aging, and said that denial is what keeps you sane, and that dwelling on death – or even on how to prolong your life – is unhealthy.

Be that as it may (sanity is over-rated anyway), I have problems  swallowing that attitude, and I will tell you why. In days of old, when there was no medical intervention, and people dropped like flies from a multitude of illnesses, it was understandable that people’s expectations for their lifespans were very low. But I don’t believe that in this day and age, when we have at our fingertips a wealth of medical information based on extensive scientific research, which is only growing day by day, we can take refuge in that excuse any longer. Furthermore,  it is denial that is holding us back from improving the quality of our lives, and extending the length of our lives.

When you are a teenager, you believe that you are invincible and that death strikes everyone but you, and when you do finally reach a time in your life – normally when you are confronted with your own mortality as you watch your parents age – that the big “D” word comes into focus, you enter a state of denial just so that your sanity can remain intact. No one knows what can happen from one day to the next – any one of us could drop dead at any second (cheery thought, I know) – and you cannot spend and waste your life obsessing about the “what-if’s”, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be pro-active about prolonging your life to the best of your ability, and it was the longevity website that fuelled this strong belief.

Anyway, I recommend checking out the longevity website if for no other reason than it can give you hope for the possibilities that exist to prevent the causes of degenerative aging. I end this post with a quote from their website that struck a chord in me:

There are many people in the world who want you and everyone you know to suffer and die on their schedule, far sooner than you might. There are people in the world who would suppress all medical research for increased longevity – exactly the sort of research that has increased the healthy life expectancy of the old over the fifty years, and will accelerate this trend going forward. If everyday folk like you and I go along with these deathists in silence, if we do not loudly point the nature of the Emperor’s clothes, then we will get what we deserve – suffering and death for failing to stand up for ourselves, failing to support longevity research, and failing to build a better future for all.

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