Death and Dying

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Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Mon Feb 17, 2014 2:38 am

I have had two close friends die over the past several months. One from colon cancer the other from a myocardial infarction. Both were about my age. These events, the people I have seen die over the years, and my own aging has brought this issue front and center for me.

I have also been haunted by an experience I had last fall. A woman, mid 30’s, came in in hypovolemic shock from internal bleeding from a kitchen knife wielded by her boyfriend. She had a class IV hemorrhage. She was confused, lethargic with tachycardia and very low systolic BP. She became unresponsive, and attempts at fluid resuscitation produced minimal, transient results. After I was able to clamp and repair a damaged superior mesenteric artery, she arrested. We did what I could to bring her back, but we lost her. I have been through things similar to this many times before, but this time it was different. Even though she was non-responsive, dying, and finally gone forever, I could have sworn she was present, standing next to me, watching me through the whole business. I just haven’t been the same since. Maybe I am just getting old.

In medicine, the determination of the presence of death is currently decided through medical conventions to evaluate reflexes and brain activity that establish a convincing probability that the withdrawal of sentience is permanent. We are not able to make a comprehensive or definitive measurement of the absence or presence of consciousness. If a patient appears to be in deep coma and is kept alive by intubation with some brain electrical activity, do we know a conscious person is somehow still there or not? We just don’t know. While we can measure brain stem reflexes and cortical arousal, those are only correlates of consciousness and imprecise ones at best.

There are some largely ignored publications on Near Death Experiences by Pim Van Lommel and others, as well as the meticulous years of work conducted by the late Ian Stevenson and now Jim Tucker at UVA on children around the world reporting past lives. Some respond to these publications by perhaps becoming overly credulous about such work being “proof” of “reincarnation” or the “after life.” Others are dismissive of findings, but I don’t think trying to explain something away to protect existing material paradigms is the same thing as understanding it. I take a middle road. These are anomalous results that have not yet been satisfactorily explained and may not be able to be effectively framed with the tools we currently have available.

One time I entered a room on oncology where a middle aged man was in the last, painful stages of pancreatic cancer. I knew the family and they were constantly pressing him to "hold on" and "keep fighting." He looked at me that late afternoon and asked me, "Doc, is it OK if I die tonight?" I said yes. He died that night.

I now spend a day every week at hospice helping out in addition to my regular practice. The more familiar I have become with death, the more deeply mysterious it has become for me. Kind of like being born, only in reverse.

Feel free to share experiences, thoughts, whatever. This is not an easy topic, particularly in this culture, but this does not have to be sad or morbid. I have been taught by the dying to approach this with an openness, a curiosity, and a great deal of wonder. If this thread remains quiet, I suppose that would somehow be appropriate. As silent as the grave… :?
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Endovelico » Mon Feb 17, 2014 12:25 pm

I'm 71 years old and I know my time will soon (even if it drags on for another 10 or 15 years) be up.

What puzzles me is the idea that a conscious self will only be around for about 80 years in a world which is 13.5 billion years old. One can say that each sentient being is a "self", but we know it isn't so. There is no consciousness without an "I", and there is only one "I". Or is it?...

Some people may take this as proof that there must be reincarnation, but I doubt it. I tend now to think that the universe requires a witness, an "I" who experiments the universe, but that each "I" has nothing to do with the previous one. Consciousness and self is a single essential cosmogonic constant which may appear anywhere in the universe. As such the "self" seems never to die but the person who supports it does. When a person dies, it is gone forever. But another being will take its place and, each time, the self will act and feel as if it is unique and precious, desiring to live forever. To the one who dies death must seem terrible, but in practice it is as if the self never dies. Only memories and awareness are limited to about 80 years, each time. So what? Will "I" next time be a nice lizard in the Andromeda galaxy?...
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Simple Minded » Mon Feb 17, 2014 1:11 pm

kmich wrote:I have had two close friends die over the past several months. One from colon cancer the other from a myocardial infarction. Both were about my age. These events, the people I have seen die over the years, and my own aging has brought this issue front and center for me.

I have also been haunted by an experience I had last fall. A woman, mid 30’s, came in in hypovolemic shock from internal bleeding from a kitchen knife wielded by her boyfriend. She had a class IV hemorrhage. She was confused, lethargic with tachycardia and very low systolic BP. She became unresponsive, and attempts at fluid resuscitation produced minimal, transient results. After I was able to clamp and repair a damaged superior mesenteric artery, she arrested. We did what I could to bring her back, but we lost her. I have been through things similar to this many times before, but this time it was different. Even though she was non-responsive, dying, and finally gone forever, I could have sworn she was present, standing next to me, watching me through the whole business. I just haven’t been the same since. Maybe I am just getting old.

In medicine, the determination of the presence of death is currently decided through medical conventions to evaluate reflexes and brain activity that establish a convincing probability that the withdrawal of sentience is permanent. We are not able to make a comprehensive or definitive measurement of the absence or presence of consciousness. If a patient appears to be in deep coma and is kept alive by intubation with some brain electrical activity, do we know a conscious person is somehow still there or not? We just don’t know. While we can measure brain stem reflexes and cortical arousal, those are only correlates of consciousness and imprecise ones at best.

There are some largely ignored publications on Near Death Experiences by Pim Van Lommel and others, as well as the meticulous years of work conducted by the late Ian Stevenson and now Jim Tucker at UVA on children around the world reporting past lives. Some respond to these publications by perhaps becoming overly credulous about such work being “proof” of “reincarnation” or the “after life.” Others are dismissive of findings, but I don’t think trying to explain something away to protect existing material paradigms is the same thing as understanding it. I take a middle road. These are anomalous results that have not yet been satisfactorily explained and may not be able to be effectively framed with the tools we currently have available.

One time I entered a room on oncology where a middle aged man was in the last, painful stages of pancreatic cancer. I knew the family and they were constantly pressing him to "hold on" and "keep fighting." He looked at me that late afternoon and asked me, "Doc, is it OK if I die tonight?" I said yes. He died that night.

I now spend a day every week at hospice helping out in addition to my regular practice. The more familiar I have become with death, the more deeply mysterious it has become for me. Kind of like being born, only in reverse.

Feel free to share experiences, thoughts, whatever. This is not an easy topic, particularly in this culture, but this does not have to be sad or morbid. I have been taught by the dying to approach this with an openness, a curiosity, and a great deal of wonder. If this thread remains quiet, I suppose that would somehow be appropriate. As silent as the grave… :?


great post kmich, thank you very much.

Those are the moments that make us realize how trivial we are most of the time.

Several times I have had communication with those who have passed away. You wonder if you are just imagining it. I can't explain it, I surely don't try to prove it, and I don't expect anyone who has not experienced the same to believe it.

Explanation and understanding are very different than witnessing or experiencing. Similar to religion, a UFO sighting, an out of Body Experience, or a Bigfoot/Lochness Monster sighting.

Life is personal and subjective, attempts to make it less so to satisfy an audience seem to diminish it's quality.

Thanks for what you do.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Mon Feb 17, 2014 3:36 pm

Endovelico wrote:I'm 71 years old and I know my time will soon (even if it drags on for another 10 or 15 years) be up.

What puzzles me is the idea that a conscious self will only be around for about 80 years in a world which is 13.5 billion years old. One can say that each sentient being is a "self", but we know it isn't so. There is no consciousness without an "I", and there is only one "I". Or is it?...

Some people may take this as proof that there must be reincarnation, but I doubt it. I tend now to think that the universe requires a witness, an "I" who experiments the universe, but that each "I" has nothing to do with the previous one. Consciousness and self is a single essential cosmogonic constant which may appear anywhere in the universe. As such the "self" seems never to die but the person who supports it does. When a person dies, it is gone forever. But another being will take its place and, each time, the self will act and feel as if it is unique and precious, desiring to live forever. To the one who dies death must seem terrible, but in practice it is as if the self never dies. Only memories and awareness are limited to about 80 years, each time. So what? Will "I" next time be a nice lizard in the Andromeda galaxy?...

Thanks, Endovelico. You are addressing the fundamental mystery. How are we to understand the destiny of something if we do not really understand its nature to begin with? What is “I?” What is “consciousness?” Do we really know or do we just assume we do? In one sense these are only words, social constructs of language. In a deeper sense they mean what it is like for a being to experience the world, something that we experience as private and subjective. I cannot directly know what it is like to be you anymore than you can know what it is like to be me. From the deep, subjective nature of our experience we tend to assume a kind of separation, an isolation, but I believe that this may be an illusion.

I have never been able to make much sense of the materialist position that I somehow miraculously or serendipitously emerged from totally non-conscious matter. The ontological problem of how subjective experience can spring out of totally insentient matter is left unexplained, but would require a miracle akin to a virgin birth if this were true. Some materialists become upset with me when I point this out.

I sense that not only the atoms that form the molecules of our body emerged from the rise and expansion of our cosmos but also our emergence as experiencing beings as well. You are right, Endovelico, the universe does require a witness because we are of the universe and we exist to do just that. But if we are of the universe in this way, how can we be at all separate? And if we are not separate, what does our death mean? Maybe “I” does not exist in the way we believe it does? Are we a stable “entity” or rather a complex web of ever changing processes and relations, a series of endlessly evolving participations in A. N Whitehead's “actual occasions?”

A nice lizard in the Andromeda galaxy would be another fun occasion, although I would rather be a little guy in a green helmet discovering an illudium Q-36 explosive space modulator… :D

Simple Minded wrote:Those are the moments that make us realize how trivial we are most of the time.

Several times I have had communication with those who have passed away. You wonder if you are just imagining it. I can't explain it, I surely don't try to prove it, and I don't expect anyone who has not experienced the same to believe it.

Explanation and understanding are very different than witnessing or experiencing. Similar to religion, a UFO sighting, an out of Body Experience, or a Bigfoot/Lochness Monster sighting.

Life is personal and subjective, attempts to make it less so to satisfy an audience seem to diminish it's quality.

Thanks for what you do.


You are welcome, SM.

You know, in approaching the death, the issue of meaning seems to be far more relevant than matters of fact. When I go into a room at hospice, other than keeping people without pain, I am only able to watch them die. And since I can do nothing about that, I have to consider who I am in the situation and what that means.

Viktor Frankl, a Viennese psychiatrist spent three years in concentration camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Theresienstadt, and Dachau facing death daily but somehow survived. He was to write later that if we are not able to find meaning in death, there can be no meaning in life. In “Man’s Search for Meaning” he related the following experience in the camp:

“This young woman knew that she would die within the next few days. But when I talked to her, she was cheerful in spite of this knowledge. ‘I am grateful that fate has hit me so hard,’ she told me, ‘in my former life I was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplishments seriously.’ Pointing through the window of the hut, she said, ‘This tree here is the only friend I have in my loneliness.'

"Through that window she could see just one branch of a chestnut tree, and on that branch were two blossoms. 'I often talk to this tree,' she said to me. I was startled and didn’t quite know how to take her words. Was she delirious? Did she have occasional hallucinations? Anxiously I asked her if the tree replied. 'Yes.' What did it say to her? 'I am here – I am here – I am life, eternal life…'”
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Endovelico » Mon Feb 17, 2014 6:03 pm

Kmich, now that you didn't shut me off I can complicate things a little:

Imagine that for each sentient being there is a separate universe in which that being is the local "I". Than we are isolated only as far as our specific universe is concerned but every universe is only a different perspective of the same material world. Like that there would be no privileged self, or "I", and our interaction would be among equals. The sequence of "selfs" would occur in each universe, without interfering with the other universes. In fact each one of us would be carrying his own universe with him, wherever we went...

This is getting more and more fun...
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Mon Feb 17, 2014 6:21 pm

Endovelico wrote:Kmich, now that you didn't shut me off I can complicate things a little:

Imagine that for each sentient being there is a separate universe in which that being is the local "I". Than we are isolated only as far as our specific universe is concerned but every universe is only a different perspective of the same material world. Like that there would be no privileged self, or "I", and our interaction would be among equals. The sequence of "selfs" would occur in each universe, without interfering with the other universes. In fact each one of us would be carrying his own universe with him, wherever we went...

This is getting more and more fun...

You are right in that the sense of separation to the point of considering us as residing in individual, separate universes is certainly compatible with experience. I suspect though that this just may well be an artifact of our "initial excess of subjectivity" as Alfred North Whitehead put it in Process and Reality:

"Philosophy is the self-correction by consciousness of its own initial excess of subjectivity. Each actual occasion contributes to the circumstances of its origin additional formative elements deepening its own peculiar individuality. Consciousness is only the last and greatest of such elements by which the selective character of the individual obscures the external totality from which it originates and which it embodies. An actual individual, of such higher grade, has truck with the totality of things by reason of its sheer actuality; but it has attained its individual depth of being by a selective emphasis limited to its own purposes. The task of philosophy is to recover the totality obscured by the selection.."

Of course, there is always the holographic theories of mind of David Bohm, where each of us is enfolded in the universe and the universe is enfolded in each of us within an "implicate order." But if that were true, what would death mean? What would be its meaning, if any?
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby manolo » Mon Feb 17, 2014 11:15 pm

kmich wrote:I now spend a day every week at hospice helping out in addition to my regular practice. The more familiar I have become with death, the more deeply mysterious it has become for me. Kind of like being born, only in reverse.


kmich,

Like others here, I thank you for your work and this post.

In a very small way, there is something that I do. A few years ago, my life was saved in a local hospital. For maybe 6 yrs I have been visiting this hospital now and then for a meal in the restaurant. I sit quietly and people often come to talk with me, either in the restaurant or in the garden. I'm a good listener and many times folks in trouble have shared the deepest things in their crisis and lives. It just pops out.

I had thought of becoming a formal volunteer, but there is something in the informal which is kind of precious. I was an adult educator for many years and have no desire to leave my retirement. The hospital (indeed any hospital) is a place very different from the street. I'm not committed to a particular religion, but the hospital feels like a secular cathedral to me. It has an atmosphere of crisis, of care, of humanity and of passage, which is palpable.

Alex.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Tue Feb 18, 2014 2:24 am

manolo wrote:In a very small way, there is something that I do. A few years ago, my life was saved in a local hospital. For maybe 6 yrs I have been visiting this hospital now and then for a meal in the restaurant. I sit quietly and people often come to talk with me, either in the restaurant or in the garden. I'm a good listener and many times folks in trouble have shared the deepest things in their crisis and lives. It just pops out.

I had thought of becoming a formal volunteer, but there is something in the informal which is kind of precious. I was an adult educator for many years and have no desire to leave my retirement. The hospital (indeed any hospital) is a place very different from the street. I'm not committed to a particular religion, but the hospital feels like a secular cathedral to me. It has an atmosphere of crisis, of care, of humanity and of passage, which is palpable.

Alex.

One of the things I have noticed as I have gotten older is that my life has been less concerned about the future and more concerned with how I am being in the here and now. As I get old, I no longer have a career to build, a family to raise, and the usual concerns that occupied my youth. When you go to your hospital, Alex, you are valued there by the presence you bring to the people you encounter and not so much by what you do. It is the nature of our being with others that really counts as we grow old. And, yes, being with others in a compassionate way is a communion of spirit. After I complete my work at hospice, I always go to the chapel there and just sit for a time. I go home feeling like I had just been to church, with a lightening of spirit, and somehow with a sense that death can truly be the crowning moment of a life well lived without regret.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Mr. Perfect » Tue Feb 18, 2014 2:42 am

The secular creation myths do not provide comfort or meaning for many people. Also, the religious views do not satisfy a whole nother group. It's easy to throw up ones hands and say forget about it and try to think of other things.

It occurred to me once though that whether one is secular, religious (which is currently btw a false binary choice) one thing cannot be escaped.

All this stuff requires an explanation. Existence itself requires an explanation, as does the expanse of the universe, life, the human being and it's nature, and so forth. Something caused all of this.

Just phrasing the question like this, for me, discounts any atheist explanation.

To the OP, dying is the same. Humans can't help but wonder at it, ponder the implications and meaning. Which is good. The bad is that in 2014 so many people are still at the most basic questions of a phenomenon that is ancient.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Simple Minded » Tue Feb 18, 2014 3:46 am

kmich wrote:
Viktor Frankl, a Viennese psychiatrist spent three years in concentration camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Theresienstadt, and Dachau facing death daily but somehow survived. He was to write later that if we are not able to find meaning in death, there can be no meaning in life. In “Man’s Search for Meaning” he related the following experience in the camp:

“This young woman knew that she would die within the next few days. But when I talked to her, she was cheerful in spite of this knowledge. ‘I am grateful that fate has hit me so hard,’ she told me, ‘in my former life I was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplishments seriously.’ Pointing through the window of the hut, she said, ‘This tree here is the only friend I have in my loneliness.'

"Through that window she could see just one branch of a chestnut tree, and on that branch were two blossoms. 'I often talk to this tree,' she said to me. I was startled and didn’t quite know how to take her words. Was she delirious? Did she have occasional hallucinations? Anxiously I asked her if the tree replied. 'Yes.' What did it say to her? 'I am here – I am here – I am life, eternal life…'”


I read Frankl decades ago.

"Between stimulus and response, man has the ability to choose." is one of the most profound sentences on the human condition I have ever encountered.

It is the more eloquent equivalent of:
A) the tough love of a dope slap
B) the New York saying: "F*ck'em if they can't take a joke!"
C) the Louisiana saying: "That's why stupid is supposed to hurt!"
D) someone being their own worst enemy

Joe: "Fred pissed me off! Fred offended me! Fred is a troll!"
Viktor: "Really?"
"the greatest artist is the simplifier."

"everything should be as simple as possible but no simpler."
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Heracleum Persicum » Tue Feb 18, 2014 6:16 am

kmich wrote:.

I have had two close friends die over the past several months. One from colon cancer the other from a myocardial infarction. Both were about my age. These events, the people I have seen die over the years, and my own aging has brought this issue front and center for me.

I have also been haunted by an experience I had last fall. A woman, mid 30’s, came in in hypovolemic shock from internal bleeding from a kitchen knife wielded by her boyfriend. She had a class IV hemorrhage. She was confused, lethargic with tachycardia and very low systolic BP. She became unresponsive, and attempts at fluid resuscitation produced minimal, transient results. After I was able to clamp and repair a damaged superior mesenteric artery, she arrested. We did what I could to bring her back, but we lost her. I have been through things similar to this many times before, but this time it was different. Even though she was non-responsive, dying, and finally gone forever, I could have sworn she was present, standing next to me, watching me through the whole business. I just haven’t been the same since. Maybe I am just getting old.

In medicine, the determination of the presence of death is currently decided through medical conventions to evaluate reflexes and brain activity that establish a convincing probability that the withdrawal of sentience is permanent. We are not able to make a comprehensive or definitive measurement of the absence or presence of consciousness. If a patient appears to be in deep coma and is kept alive by intubation with some brain electrical activity, do we know a conscious person is somehow still there or not? We just don’t know. While we can measure brain stem reflexes and cortical arousal, those are only correlates of consciousness and imprecise ones at best.

There are some largely ignored publications on Near Death Experiences by Pim Van Lommel and others, as well as the meticulous years of work conducted by the late Ian Stevenson and now Jim Tucker at UVA on children around the world reporting past lives. Some respond to these publications by perhaps becoming overly credulous about such work being “proof” of “reincarnation” or the “after life.” Others are dismissive of findings, but I don’t think trying to explain something away to protect existing material paradigms is the same thing as understanding it. I take a middle road. These are anomalous results that have not yet been satisfactorily explained and may not be able to be effectively framed with the tools we currently have available.

One time I entered a room on oncology where a middle aged man was in the last, painful stages of pancreatic cancer. I knew the family and they were constantly pressing him to "hold on" and "keep fighting." He looked at me that late afternoon and asked me, "Doc, is it OK if I die tonight?" I said yes. He died that night.

I now spend a day every week at hospice helping out in addition to my regular practice. The more familiar I have become with death, the more deeply mysterious it has become for me. Kind of like being born, only in reverse.

Feel free to share experiences, thoughts, whatever. This is not an easy topic, particularly in this culture, but this does not have to be sad or morbid. I have been taught by the dying to approach this with an openness, a curiosity, and a great deal of wonder. If this thread remains quiet, I suppose that would somehow be appropriate. As silent as the grave… :?

.




Thank you for the thread, kmich

Subject of death has been always interesting, specially when one getting older (67)

but, best revenge, is, enjoy every day as being your last and live as you would live 100 more yrs

death does not frighten me, not at all .. had no "Near Death Experiences", but twice really near death situation when once engine quit on 12,000 ft flying over mountains and had to make a crash landing and once same when in low altitude .. when that happens, one is ALL SENSES, cold as ice, but no fear at all

on the other hand

what frightens me is Loneliness


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Re: Death and Dying

Postby manolo » Tue Feb 18, 2014 9:58 am

Heracleum Persicum wrote:
on the other hand

what frightens me is Loneliness
.


HP,

IMHO a sure fired invitation to loneliness is over concern with the self. Loneliness as a state of mind is crippling and can strike at any age, even if we are surrounded by kindly people.

I was almost run over by a 95 year old lady the other day, as she raced her mobility scooter through the mall. We chatted, and she joked "I used to have sports cars and now I've only got this!" I was thinking about her for the rest of the day. :)

Alex.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby manolo » Tue Feb 18, 2014 10:01 am

kmich wrote:One of the things I have noticed as I have gotten older is that my life has been less concerned about the future and more concerned with how I am being in the here and now. As I get old, I no longer have a career to build, a family to raise, and the usual concerns that occupied my youth. When you go to your hospital, Alex, you are valued there by the presence you bring to the people you encounter and not so much by what you do. It is the nature of our being with others that really counts as we grow old. And, yes, being with others in a compassionate way is a communion of spirit. After I complete my work at hospice, I always go to the chapel there and just sit for a time. I go home feeling like I had just been to church, with a lightening of spirit, and somehow with a sense that death can truly be the crowning moment of a life well lived without regret.


Kmich,

Understood.

Alex.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Tue Feb 18, 2014 12:54 pm

Mr. Perfect wrote:The secular creation myths do not provide comfort or meaning for many people. Also, the religious views do not satisfy a whole nother group. It's easy to throw up ones hands and say forget about it and try to think of other things.

It occurred to me once though that whether one is secular, religious (which is currently btw a false binary choice) one thing cannot be escaped.

All this stuff requires an explanation. Existence itself requires an explanation, as does the expanse of the universe, life, the human being and it's nature, and so forth. Something caused all of this.

Just phrasing the question like this, for me, discounts any atheist explanation.

To the OP, dying is the same. Humans can't help but wonder at it, ponder the implications and meaning. Which is good. The bad is that in 2014 so many people are still at the most basic questions of a phenomenon that is ancient.

Mr. Perfect, explanations certainly can provide comfort if they give meaning to the dying experience, and these challenges have been with us throughout human history.

The dying and those who are with the dying will have the most challenging times though when the mind goes frequently blank and the tongue goes mute. At these times, the intentions embodied in their lives are what follows them to the end. If they have discovered a life of kindness, generosity, and love, they will die with gratitude and peace. Their space will be unfathomable, as the Frankl's story of the woman dying at Auschwitz posted above beautifully illustrated. If they lived a life of callousness, greed, and resentment, and carry that into death, they will die in fear and regret, Their space will be suffocatingly small. At least this is what I have witnessed.

Simple Minded wrote:I read Frankl decades ago.

"Between stimulus and response, man has the ability to choose." is one of the most profound sentences on the human condition I have ever encountered.

It is the more eloquent equivalent of:
A) the tough love of a dope slap
B) the New York saying: "F*ck'em if they can't take a joke!"
C) the Louisiana saying: "That's why stupid is supposed to hurt!"
D) someone being their own worst enemy

Joe: "Fred pissed me off! Fred offended me! Fred is a troll!"
Viktor: "Really?"

SM, Frankl is always worth reading again. I have provided "Man's Search for Meaning" to friends who have been in terminal illness and they have found Frankl's words and experiences deeply meaningful. The power, meaning, and authority of his writing are derived from the depth of his suffering, and this, I believe, is the essential point about Frankl. Everything was taken from him, his family, his health, and all the elements other than the bare minimal supports for human existence in the camp. In the face of this he wrote, as you noted, in part, above:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way... Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”

In the face suffering and death, he was fond of quoting Dostoevsky, "There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings..."

manolo wrote:
Heracleum Persicum wrote:
on the other hand

what frightens me is Loneliness
.


HP,

IMHO a sure fired invitation to loneliness is over concern with the self. Loneliness as a state of mind is crippling and can strike at any age, even if we are surrounded by kindly people.

I was almost run over by a 95 year old lady the other day, as she raced her mobility scooter through the mall. We chatted, and she joked "I used to have sports cars and now I've only got this!" I was thinking about her for the rest of the day. :)

Alex.


The hard part that HP is touching upon is that we do die alone. Loving people may surround us, but the living cannot really be where we are when we are dying. Loneliness is possible but not inevitable, as Alex pointed out, but the situation of being alone is very much inevitable when one is dying.

What is it like when we are alone in life? Are we preoccupied with resentments, concerns, fears? Or can we rest alone with a kind and open heart? I believe we will die in the way we have been alone in life.

Often when I enter a room at hospice, a person will be there on the bed, non-responsive, with and open mouth, mottled skin, in agonal breathing, and in the last moments of their lives. I will be with them for a few minutes, but I will be with them also alone, silent, allowing my heart to open and my being to rest with them. Do they know I am there and with them for those moments? Don't know. Even though I don't know what this does, I feel like I have touched something very sacred.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby manolo » Tue Feb 18, 2014 11:11 pm

kmich wrote: I believe we will die in the way we have been alone in life.


Kmich,

It is my feeling that we are never alone in life or death, because everyone who lives also dies. We are all part of the same process. OK, this sounds kind of religious, but it is just a feeling.

Alex.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Wed Feb 19, 2014 1:49 am

manolo wrote:
kmich wrote: I believe we will die in the way we have been alone in life.


Kmich,

It is my feeling that we are never alone in life or death, because everyone who lives also dies. We are all part of the same process. OK, this sounds kind of religious, but it is just a feeling.

Alex.


Alex, that is true in principle but I do not believe it is true in some of the basic experiences of life we all share, including death. The various spiritual traditions all point to that truth: Jesus dying alone on the cross, wandering alone to be tempted in the desert, Moses ascending Mount Sinai alone to receive the commandments, Muhammad on retreat alone in the cave at Hira before his first revelation...

We leave behind everything and everyone in death, and we all share in the solitude that requires, so in principle we not alone, but nevertheless we must experience the journey into that night alone. That need not be morbid or terrifying if we orient our hearts with joy, gratitude, and devotion for the creation we all sprung from and to which we must all return. In that way we can be in an act of divine embrace that brings light in the solitude of that dark night.

This all probably sounds REALLY religious, doesn't it?

I grew up in an immigrant Russian Orthodox family complete with an icon of Theotokos of Tolga in the household's Krasny Ugol (beautiful corner). I remember hearing my mother weep in prayer at night for some her relatives still in the old country likely rotting in the Gulag...

Russian Orthodox is very different than the Christianity most people in the West are familiar with. Very mystical and experiential. As a child it was very powerful for me - dreamlike and transcendent. I remember often falling into a trance doing devotional prayers alone as boy and sometimes during worship services. I got completely away from it over the years, and I haven't gone to church in years. Still, as I have gotten older I realize how much has stayed with me and how deep the roots are.

K
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Mr. Perfect » Wed Feb 19, 2014 3:18 am

Solitude has emerged as a theme here, and I'm a little perplexed here. I've always enjoyed solitude. I think ethinker is clearly an extrovert, but introversion is just as common. I honestly don't know which one I am, I'm always popular and the life of the party, the center of attention, but I get tired of it easily and like to be alone for a while. There are very few people I can tolerate for long periods of time, and they are almost all my family. Some of my most enjoyable moments in my life have been alone. I recently had a solitary adventure that would have given old man and the sea a run for it's money. You just feel so alive. When I'm alone in the Mountains I often feel that I could walk right into the presence of God sometimes. I don't feel that around other people.

I should say that it is hard for me to get away so I enjoy it when I get it.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Wed Feb 19, 2014 5:09 am

Mr. Perfect wrote:Solitude has emerged as a theme here, and I'm a little perplexed here. I've always enjoyed solitude. I think ethinker is clearly an extrovert, but introversion is just as common. I honestly don't know which one I am, I'm always popular and the life of the party, the center of attention, but I get tired of it easily and like to be alone for a while. There are very few people I can tolerate for long periods of time, and they are almost all my family. Some of my most enjoyable moments in my life have been alone. I recently had a solitary adventure that would have given old man and the sea a run for it's money. You just feel so alive. When I'm alone in the Mountains I often feel that I could walk right into the presence of God sometimes. I don't feel that around other people.

I should say that it is hard for me to get away so I enjoy it when I get it.

Introversion/extroversion is an dimension of Jungian typology reflecting preferences. Some prefer interaction with others to process experience and to psychologically recharge while others prefer solitude for these functions.

Regardless of our preferences though, there are journeys in life and death which we must take with others and those we must take alone. In the Russian Orthodox tradition there is a distinction between worship as a collective function and prayer as a a solitary one. Neither is intrinsically better than the other and there is a time and a place for each.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Mr. Perfect » Wed Feb 19, 2014 8:11 am

My father died very much alone. My aunt died surrounded by people, with them right to the end moment. It's an interesting thing but I don't really have a philosophy about it. When my dad died I think subconsciously I just stopped thinking about. It just happens, I guess, is my default position. My better half really gravitates toward it and would be a hospice nurse if possible. We don't talk about it, we're so far apart on it.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Wed Feb 19, 2014 12:06 pm

Mr. Perfect wrote:My father died very much alone. My aunt died surrounded by people, with them right to the end moment. It's an interesting thing but I don't really have a philosophy about it. When my dad died I think subconsciously I just stopped thinking about. It just happens, I guess, is my default position. My better half really gravitates toward it and would be a hospice nurse if possible. We don't talk about it, we're so far apart on it.

This is definitely not easy. it is truly just as well that you do not have a philosophy about it. Healing that divide can be a great blessing though. Not that you will actually understand anymore or develop some philosophy about it; the mystery will only greatly deepen. Resting in that mystery, in that "not knowing" is where the real blessing is. At least that is what I have witnessed and sometimes experienced.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby manolo » Wed Feb 19, 2014 9:53 pm

kmich wrote: Regardless of our preferences though, there are journeys in life and death which we must take with others and those we must take alone.


kmich,

I think that we do both and not separately. We may feel isolated (such as in mental illness) or we may feel with others (such as in comradeship, communion, intimacy) but all the time we are in some ways alone and in some ways with others. The whole is not fragmented by our feelings or physical contingencies.

Just a thought though, no supporting thesis. :)

Totally agree about the 'not knowing'.

Alex.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby kmich » Wed Feb 19, 2014 11:54 pm

manolo wrote:
kmich wrote: Regardless of our preferences though, there are journeys in life and death which we must take with others and those we must take alone.


kmich,

I think that we do both and not separately. We may feel isolated (such as in mental illness) or we may feel with others (such as in comradeship, communion, intimacy) but all the time we are in some ways alone and in some ways with others. The whole is not fragmented by our feelings or physical contingencies.

Just a thought though, no supporting thesis. :)

Totally agree about the 'not knowing'.

Alex.


Alex, I don't think we disagree. Being alone is a totally different thing than becoming lonely, separate, and isolated. The former is an existential reality and the latter reflect states of mind.

A woman dying alone in Auschwitz can have a state of mind of eternal, connected beauty, while a customer together with all her friends at McDonalds can become irate because there is too much mayo on her quarter-pounder with cheese.

It is all in the states of mind we form through our fundamental values and intentions that form the meaning of our experiences whether alone or with others.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Enki » Fri Feb 21, 2014 1:43 am

I believe in an immortal soul and that this body is like a Chrysalis containing a metamorphosis within.

So I would say that if you felt her standing beside you, she probably was.

In that sense, I don't believe in death.
Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby manolo » Fri Feb 21, 2014 10:43 am

kmich wrote:
Alex, I don't think we disagree. Being alone is a totally different thing than becoming lonely, separate, and isolated. The former is an existential reality and the latter reflect states of mind.

A woman dying alone in Auschwitz can have a state of mind of eternal, connected beauty, while a customer together with all her friends at McDonalds can become irate because there is too much mayo on her quarter-pounder with cheese.

It is all in the states of mind we form through our fundamental values and intentions that form the meaning of our experiences whether alone or with others.


kmich,

You are not wrong IMHO, in particular your last sentence.

Maybe through long study of philosophy, periods of accepting illness, or just getting old, I have come to the practical realisation that I am part of the universe. For a time this feeling came only in moments, described by some (Eckhart?) as a mystical wholeness or timeless connection. But as the years passed I no longer felt that there was a 'connection' as there was no longer any disconnection. The only way I can describe the feeling in words is that it is "all the same".

This state of mind does not come easily by any means, but I think we can invite it by growing empathy, by being with others and alone without distinction and by letting go of clinging. In fact, I am not a Buddhist, but Buddhists have a lot to say about these things.

Alex.
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Re: Death and Dying

Postby Endovelico » Fri Feb 21, 2014 11:59 am

We obviously can't get rid of our magical impulses... Whether it is a religion, Harry Potter or vampires, we are fascinated by all variations on the hocus-pocus theme...
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