I admit it; Death scares me. What scares me most is the unknown. I have no doubt about an after-life. The scariest thought for me is transitioning from this life to the next.
The anxiety of death hits me most often when I am lying in bed. I start thinking thoughts like, “There is going to come a day when I will no longer be here,” or “Will I know I’m dead?” The panic starts to creep-in and I feel a weird sensation in my chest. Sometimes I want to scream-out. Other times I feel like crying. Then I try my hardest to make the thoughts go away, which they do. These whole episodes are only for fleeting moments but they are disturbing.
I then think about all the people who have died. I’m sure that almost all of them felt a panic when they pondered death. But they all faced it: some bravely, some resistant, and for others death came so fast they had no time to realize it arrived.
My next line of thought is, “How would I like to die?” My hope is that I live to be an old man or that I am ill and I know that death is coming. I would like to die peacefully and with full knowledge that it is near. I would like to be able to die knowing that I had a long life. It scares me to think of a sudden death.
[Tweet "As Catholics, we have all the necessary means not to fear death whatsoever."]
I watched a documentary on television about the Trappist monks when I was young. One of the old monks said, “No good Catholic should be afraid of death.” That quote struck me. He was absolutely right. As Catholics, as Christians, we have all the necessary means to not fear death whatsoever. First, Jesus Himself died. According to Scripture, Jesus was afraid to die, but He accepted His death and He rose! And we too will rise. Next, we have the Sacraments constantly at our disposal to help us in our journey towards earthly death. These gifts are there to help us overcome our fear because of the reward they bring. Lastly, we have to strive to live the Gospel. By believing in Jesus, following his ways, and the graces of the Sacraments, why should we/I be afraid of death?
I admire older people. A good many of them are accepting of death once they reach a certain milestone in their lives. They aren’t fatalistic. They are ready and unafraid. We had two older friends from church, a married couple, that used to joke about not purchasing green bananas any longer because they were not sure if they would be around long enough for the bananas to ripen. That is how calm and ready they were for death; ready to the point that they could poke fun of it and their own mortality. They were at peace. (Sadly, one has already passed on.)
I then think about my own selfishness. Do I lack faith by fearing death and getting panicky just thinking about it? Do I not believe in God’s promise of everlasting life as long as I keep my end of the bargain? How selfish of me to be afraid of death. How selfish it is of me to want a particular kind of death! God will call me at His convenience. Hopefully I will be ready to meet Him when He does call.
One technique that I use to calm myself down in my moments of panic, besides a quick prayer, is to think in relative terms. The world was here long before I was and it will be here long after I’m gone. Where was I before I was conceived? I don’t know. Only God knows. (Psalm 139:15-16; Jeremiah 1:5) I wasn’t always here, so why am I worried about transitioning to eternal life?
Do you think about your own death and fear it?
“No good Catholic should be afraid of death.”
“It is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.”
Copyright 2016 Michael T Carrillo
About the Author
Michael Carrillo is a retired police officer from a large California metropolitan police department. He is married to Vicki and they have five adult children between them. He is an unabashed fan of Jesuit education, though he regrets not obtaining one himself. Day hikes and walks give him opportunities and inspirations to look for and find God.