On Death

Today I attended a funeral, which, obviously, made me consider death. As it was a religious ceremony, it made me think about the different ways that people think about death. I personally believe that we don’t have a soul, while others believe that we do. They believe when we die, our soul goes to a better place, like heaven.

I find the idea of heaven fascinating. It basically allows people to not have a fear of death, which is a pretty good thing. If you truly believe that when you die you go to a better place, then there should be no fear: you should really want to die. While I have lots of questions about heaven (How many people can fit there? Do your pets go to heaven? Is it boring in heaven, since only good people go there?), I can really see the motivation for believing. Death is pretty freaking scary, and it seems like it would be better just to give yourself over to the idea that you don’t really die.

The problem with not believing in life after death is that you believe that when you die, you are, as they say, dead. That is some scary crap. I have to say that I am terrified of death. I don’t really want to even contemplate my own death. It is sort of hard to even imagine – it is like going to sleep, but never waking up. Except not like that at all, because you are dead. Ok, enough of that.

I find that it is much more easy to talk about the practical aspects of death. Like, what do you want done with your body (ok, I want my family to buy a small boat, fill it full of wood, put me on top and light the whole thing on fire), what should happen to money and possessions (obviously my wife and kids get everything unless all of us die, at which point my siblings get everything), and what should happen at any memorial service (cry! cry like you really mean it!). We have had many debates about how much life insurance I should have and whether my wife would be able to live in the lifestyle that she has become accustomed to (albeit in an improved state because there won’t be anyone to hog the bed or make a mess of the bathroom in the morning).

Anyways, I find death to be a very scary subject, and I really wish that we didn’t have to deal with it. But since we do, I guess I need to figure out how to deal with it in a grown-up manner.

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About aaronridley

Professor at the University of Michigan, Department of Climate and Space Science and Engineering.
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