“Every true story,” Ernest Hemingway said, “ends in death.”
Jesus Christ died in a cross. Princess Diana perished in a car crash. Both Jesse Robredo and John Denver died in plane crash. John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Breast cancer snatched the lives of Marilou Diaz Abaya and Ingrid Bergman.
There are those who died in some strange ways. King John of England was such a glutton that he eventually died of dysentery, caused by too much fruit and cider. Atilla the Hun died of a bloody nose. Flamboyant dresser Isadora Duncan broke her neck when she went for a ride in a sports car and her long scarf got caught in one of the rear wheels.
French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully was conducting his orchestra so vigorously that he stabbed himself in the toe with his baton. The injury became infected, but he would not allow his doctor to amputate the toe. After a few weeks the doctors told him they would have to amputate his entire leg in order for him to survive, but he refused that as well. He died soon after.
What where the words spoken by some of the world’s famous people before they died? “I am not the least afraid to die,” said scientist Charles Darwin. “I’m bored with it all,” whispered British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Before he closed his eyes, Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Josephine…”
When she woke briefly during her last illness and found all her family around her bedside, Lady Nancy Astor wondered: “Am I dying or is this my birthday?” Dramatic Eugene O’Neill was more dramatic: “I knew it. Born in a hotel room – and God damn it – died in a hotel room.”
Generally, writers had creative words to say before exiting this world. Victor Hugo said, “I see black light.” James Joyce asked, “Does nobody understand?” Edgar Allan Poe begged, “Lord help my poor soul.” Emily Dickinson stated, “I must go in, the fog is rising.” H.G. Wells urged, “Go away. I’m all right.” Jane Austen had given up: “Nothing, but death.”
American president Andrew Jackson was sure of what would happen to him: “Oh, do not cry – be good children and we will all meet in heaven.” Showman Florenz Ziegfeld commanded: “Curtain! Fast music! Light! Ready for the last finale! Great! The show looks good!” Thomas Alva Edison seemed to agree: “It is very beautiful over there.”
But to those who are still alive, death is not a welcome visitor. “No matter how ready a person seems to be, death provokes anxiety,” notes Dr. Ma. Jocelyn G. Gayares, an adult psychiatrist.
Even Jesus Christ himself was afraid that he requested for company as he faced death. Matthew 26:37-38 recorded: “He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’”
Indeed, death is a mysterious thing. It’s one of those subjects that most people don’t want to talk about. “People are always serious about death,” Bob Harrington quipped. “I never met what you call tough people when they were dying.” To which American winning actor-director Woody Allen argued, “It’s not that I’m afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
“Even in psychiatry, death is an unknown occurrence,” said Dr. Gayares. “No one knows his time of death nor what happens after death. Waiting for death could be like waiting for the result of a licensure or board examination. One experiences sleeplessness, anxiety, shortness of breath and various body pains. The unknown always elicit fear and anxiety.”
Is death the end of life itself? Baron de Montesquieu reminds, “We should weep for men at their birth, not at their death.” Death, after all, is part of the equation called life.
“Around us everyday we see many examples of death bringing forth life,” Frank Mihalic points out. “A kernel of corn is buried and it grows into a tall cornstalk. The ice cube dissolves and it cools the water. A match burns itself out to light a fire. Water gets itself dirty to clean you. A battery goes dead giving you music and light. Wood burns itself out to cook your food. Animals and plants die to give you your food. By dying, all these things rise to a higher life.”
But if a man dies, the patriarch Job asked, will he live again? Christians believe they will. The apostle Paul promises in I Corinthians 15:52: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
The poet John Donne defies death by proclaiming, “Death be not proud, though some have called thee… / One short sleep past, we wake eternally, / And death shall be no more; death thou shalt die.”
In a cemetery in England, this epitaph was written: “Remember man, as you walk by, / As you are now, so once was I, / As I am now, so shall you be, / Remember this and follow me.”
To which someone replied by writing on the tombstone: “To follow you I’ll not consent, / Until I know which way you went.”