Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

An Unexpected Death

Julius Caesar describes the best kind of death as “An unexpected one”. For a general of the largest military the world had ever known, he must have seen a great deal of death and violence. It reminds me of the film “Platoon”, in which a Vietnam soldier describes being in constant war as “not so bad” because he was able to do whatever he wanted and was certain that his death would be unexpected and sudden, therefore he had no problem with it.
                I am inclined to agree with Julius Caesar. I feel that the anticipation of seeing your death coming would be a terrible situation. Criminals on death row are constantly being held under this level of pressure and studies show that their mental state is heavily effected. Alternatives would be such situations as slow debilitating disease/disorder such as cancer or alzheimer's. Slowly wasting away to a shell of your former self while your friends and family watch.
                I should probably note that it would be best for ME to die suddenly. I have experienced both the sudden loss of someone close to me as well as the obvious looming death of someone abusing drugs. The sudden loss is terrifying. You expect them at the door when it opens or when the phone rings. It I a massive and immediate adjustment. However, watching someone die slowly over time gives you mental and emotional time to prepare yourself as well as time to get yours (and perhaps theirs) affairs in order.
                In conclusion I feel that an unexpected death would be best for me, but not my family and friends.


  1. I'd also like to go without fanfare, preferably also without debilitating pain and anticipation. But I have to add that the summer of '08, when my Dad was dying from leukemia and we all knew the end was nigh, was for me both painful (for obvious reasons) and delightful (because it freed us for, and pushed us towards, some significant, meaningful conversations I'll never forget. I think (I HOPE) he'd say the same, though that summer must have been no picnic for him to live through. As you say, one's own experience of mortality may not match that of family and friends.

  2. As Devon and Dr. Oliver have expressed, I too have seen both sides of death. A parent losing a child in a car accident who died on impact and another who lost the child after a car accident who was on life support for the last few weeks of her life. As a parent, I would not like to lose my child unexpectedly. As an adult, I would not want to simply exist as my father did suffering from Alzheimer's and no longer recognizing anyone. My choice would be to have everything in order, a will, a plan to distribute what if any assets I have, a chance to say goodbye and thank everyone close to me and then to sit in a rocking chair, out on the front porch, enjoying the sounds of birds singing and life and slowly drift off into eternal sleep.

    1. The prospect of losing a child is the most terrifying life-event I can imagine. But Stoics say we should contemplate the possibility and prepare ourselves for it, and every other terror. I don't believe in Magical Thinking, but I also don't want to dwell on such thoughts either. I don't believe I could be a "happy Stoic."

  3. Circumstances largely affect the emotional impact that one feels when undergoing death. Psychologically coping with death is an individual to each person as their fingerprint. Death is such a strong emotional blow that it brings up all types of questions about morality, spirituality, ethics, and existentialism. Perhaps it is the fear of death that keeps us alive.

  4. Fear of death, or fear of not living? Those mental states may be semantically equivalent, but existentially they can be experienced very differently. As Thoreau said, when I come to die I don't want to discover that I've not lived.

  5. What is living defined as? Living could be seen simply as survival, for most of the world, that is what life is. Avoidance of pain or death. I like Thoreau's statement. We are free to mold our lives and it would be upsetting to be at the end of the journey and realize that life was spent not doing anything substantial or meaningful. Life is a gift.