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Perspectives on Death and Dying Essay

By Rashmi Prakash

Death, the most obvious fact of life yet the greatest mystery to man. It is a
fact of life that we will all one day die, but how we perceive our death has an
effect upon how we live our life. If one takes an optimistic point to death,
then we shall live a safe and happy life. If one takes a pessimists point of
view to death then we live insecure and unhappy lives. But it is experience
in the matter of death and dying that determines how we perceive it. As
children, one might not have time to perceive death at all because we have
only been introduced to life. However, if terminally ill we are forced to face
the facts, but this fact allows one to see things in a more optimistic way. As
an elderly person, one might face sorrow or depression but due to experience
one will see a more lighter view eventually. The perspectives on death and
dying generally vary from age to age and people appear more tolerant and
thoughtful on the topic the more they are faced with it.

Many youth find it hard for their minds to conceive thoughts about dying
and their death, therefore they find themselves challenging mortality. Life is
a new concept for the young people and they haven’t experience a lot, if at
all, to do with death and dying. This may be due to the fact that they have
just been introduced to life so their minds are still learning about how to live
rather than when or how they will die. Due to the fact that they have not
thought of their deaths, their mind seems to slip past the fact that they are
still able to die, and they believe that they can do anything without dying.
According to a recent survey, over 1/3 of the deaths in youth that occur
every year in Canada are due to them taking foolish life threatening risks.
(Brown, Thomas.) Many of them take life for granted and do not see it’s
value, they believe that they have an eternal lifetime to do the thing they
want and often cast it to the sides. While interviewing a funeral home
director he stated “As a young person I was, like many friends, not
grateful toward life, and took it for granted. I did not care about my own
mortality. For a very long time, I often took stupid, life-threatening risks,
and often reasoned with myself for not doing things by stating that I would
do it another time, because I had a lot of that. During this time, death was a
thing that happened not to me but to other people.”(John, Graham.) This
quote shows that the youth do not realise how important time is, and how
little of it we have to do the things we love the most. They can not conceive
death because they have no experience, it hasn’t happened to anyone close
around them to effect them enough. The youth of our time take life for
granted, they have only begun to experience life and they take life
threatening-risks all because they are unable to conceive the thoughts of
their own death. Young people believe that they are immortal because they
can not think of their own death this leads them to taking life for granted. It
is because young people can not think of their own deaths that they find
themselves thinking negatively of the whole concept in the end due to lack
of experience, however there are certain people who see death as a positive
thing.

There are almost 7 billion people on this planet, and out of those the
terminally ill are one of the few people in the world that can view death and
the thoughts of dieing in a positive manner. They find that the thoughts of
their death provides them with a sense of relief (Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth).
They feel that they are burdening their loved ones and by realising that they
will die they get relief from their pain and the guilt that they maybe
bothering them. They do not take their lives for granted, but rather cherish it.
They take the thoughts of die as a fact and realise that they will die sooner or
later, but in the mean time they look and the positive side and challenge
themselves to do the thins they’ve always wanted to do. They make their
lives better and re-evaluate it. In the Toronto star, there was a story about a
terminally ill man who was able to change his perspective on life. According
to the Toronto star “A twenty-five year old man from Toronto had acquired
AIDS because he was a frequent drug abuser.”(Atkinson, Wayne.) Before he
had acquired this disease he was a very isolated and bitter person, but after
realising how little time he had left he was able to change his lifestyle from a
destructive one to a more constructive one. This shows how much an
experience with death can change the perspectives of not only one’s death
but also one’s life. Experience is not something that is easily gained,
however with all the time that the elderly have had, they must have had
experience to a higher degree than that of younger people.

It appears that Elderly people find that the thoughts of their own deaths leads
them to feel a certain amount of depression, however they realise, through
experience, that there is a certain hope that given when faced with thoughts
of dying. Imagine realising that one only had a short period of time to live
but so much to do. It is only human nature that when one considers the flame
of one’s own life to almost be extinguished after so many beautiful
memories, one will encounter the sorrows of depression. However, they are
old enough to realise that nothing will be achieved from sulking. They have
lived life long enough to take a step back from depression. To look at death
from a bird’s eye view and see that it really is not a bad thing, and that
sooner or later it will happen to everyone, so they must make the most of
what they have. It was while interview a funeral home director that a story of
an elderly person do just that appeared. “I once knew someone, who after
losing his wife and suffering a stroke, had a remarkable change in his
outlook of life. He really, passionately cares for his garden and it was in this
area of his life that I noticed the change the most. I noticed his change in the
way he saw thing, he became more philosophical and drew towards the
beauty of life and nature. When he discovered a weed in his garden he talked
about the wonders that it possessed and put it back whereas before he would
have killed it. This most certainly convinced me.”(John, Graham.)
As one becomes more faced with death and dying it is likely that one
become more thoughtful and tolerant about the topic if death and dying, how
ever for one to be more ‘experienced’ in this area it takes time, so naturally
we conceive that elderly people have a more logical approach to this topic.
As youths, they find it hard for their minds to conceive thoughts about dying
and their death because they have newly been introduced to life, therefore
they find themselves challenging mortality and taking life for granted. The
terminally ill are one of the few people in the world that can view death and
the thoughts of dieing in a positive manner, their thoughts of death provide
them with relief, they see death from a less narrow point of view and they
find themselves able to re-evaluate life. The Elderly find the thoughts death
a tad bit depressing, however, through experience, they see the hope that is
given when faced with thoughts of dying and they see things through a more
broader light. Death is nothing to be worried about, it is going to happen one
day. Rather than worry about death, we must take a look at life, to see how
we are living it and if it isn’t what we want then we must change it for there
is nothing worse than having regrets when you die.

Works Cited
Atkinson, Wayne. “Death a Warning to the Living.” Contest: Essays by Canadian
Students. Ed. Murray McArthur. Toronto: Harcourt Brace Canada, 1998. 157 -
159.

Bradley, Ben. "Oxford University Press: Well-Being and Death: Ben Bradley." Oxford
University Press: OUP.COM Home Page. Oxford University Press. Web. 06 Oct.
2010.<http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Philosophy/EthicsMoral
Philosophy/?view=usa&ci=9780199557967. >

Brown, Thomas. Approaching Death: Improving care a the end of life. The National
Academics press; 03 Nov 2004. 13 November 2010.
<http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=5084821&page=14>

Bryant, Clifton. A Handbook of Death and Dying. U.S.A: Woolsworth, 2003-2009.

Corr, Charles A., Clyde Nabe, and Donna M. Corr. Death and Dying, Life and Living.
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Haley, James. Death and Dying: Opposing Viewpoints. Farmington Hills, MI:
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John, Graham. Telephone Interview. 17th December 2010.

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Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth. Death: the Final Stage of Growth. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Prentice-Hall, 2000.

Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors,
Nurses, Clergy and Their Own Families. Great Britain: Tavistock, 2009.