Awareness of and accepting our mortality can lead us to live differently in the present. Accepting death of loved ones or our own can can be hugely problematic there is emotional and spiritual work to be done to come to terms with the inevitability of death. Thinking about your life ending can be anxiety provoking.

Aside from birth, dying is the only other experience we will all share. So why is it so hard to talk about?

There is a basic uncertainty in the lives of us all. The reality is that without exception we are all going to die.

Thanatophobia

The fear of death. More specifically, it can be a fear of death or a fear of the dying process.

If we can control anxiety about how death impacts upon us, we can avoid potentially negative or destructive behaviour and focus positively on the time we have here, the reality is that death can happen at any moment. You may find that preparing for your death makes you less afraid of dying.

One person dies every minute in the UK.

Medical advances mean that more and more people are surviving life-threatening illnesses and serious injuries. If you recover from a life-threatening illness, you may be fearful that it will come back and worry about every ache and pain. You may face limits on how you live your life because of a disability or side effects of the treatment you have received.

If you survive an accident or a brush with death  you may become more aware of how you live your life, and seek a better balance between doing things for yourself and for other people.

When we imagine emotions of people as they approach death, we think of sadness, depression and terror. However, a study following terminally ill patients and inmates facing execution on death row, blogging about their daily feelings seemed to be positive, using positive emotion words such as love and gratitude and tended to focus on things that help us make meaning of life, including religion and family.

Grief and accepting our mortality

Grief is a natural reaction to loss, and can be overwhelmingly painful, it can be different for each of us. Understanding the process of bereavement doesn’t prevent this pain, or reduce its intensity, but it can help to chart a path back to some kind of normal life.

In the Middle Ages, the Black Death claimed a third of the entire population of Europe!

Also, just 100 years ago, death was everywhere. Around 1 in 10 people died in childhood. Life expectancy was just 46 for men and 50 for women. People usually died at home – with their families – rather than in hospital. Improvements in public health over the past century means we rarely stare death in the face any more.

Following the Black Death, a catchphrase ‘memento mori’ (remember death) became known and started to shape the way people lived their lives.

A book about preparing for death.

“It is certain that we shall die; but the time of death is uncertain. God has already fixed the year, the month, the day, the hour, and the moment when you and I are to leave this earth and go into eternity; but the time is unknown to us. All know that they must die: but the misfortune is, that many view death at such a distance, that they lose sight of it.”

Alphonsus Liguori, 18th Century
Untitled-design-82 Accepting our mortality

The Everyman Medieval Play

A medieval play “Everyman” originally known as The Summoning of Everyman, is a poignant reminder of the inevitability of death and the need to live each day with purpose and meaning.

In the play, God decides to have a reckoning with Everyman. He summons Death and orders him to bring Everyman to him. Death rushes to carry out God’s orders, observing that humans are too preoccupied with thoughts of worldly pleasures and gain to prepare for his coming. He finds Everyman and tells him off for casually walking about without any thought of God, telling him that he has been summoned for a reckoning. Everyman will need to bring his “book of count”, containing his good and evil deeds, when he goes before God to explain how he spent his life. Everyman is alarmed by this and asks for more time, as he feels unready for his reckoning, he even tries in vain to bribe him with money. Death says no, but will allow Everyman to find a companion for his journey.

Everyman’s friend Fellowship promises to go anywhere with him, but when he hears of the nature of Everyman’s journey, he refuses to go. Everyman then calls on Kindred and Cousin and asks them to go with him, but they also refuse. Cousin explains the main reason why no one wants to accompany Everyman: they have their own accounts to write as well. Afterwards, Everyman asks Goods, who will not come: God’s judgment will be severe because of the selfishness implied in Goods’s presence.

Everyman then turns to Good Deeds, who says she would go with him, but she is too weak as Everyman has not loved her in his life. Good Deeds summons her sister Knowledge to accompany them, and together they go to see Confession. In the presence of Confession, Everyman begs God for forgiveness and repents his sins, punishing himself. After this, Everyman is absolved of his sins, and as a result, Good Deeds becomes strong enough to accompany Everyman on his journey with Death.

Good Deeds then summons Beauty, Strength, Discretion and Five Wits to join them, and they agree to go with Everyman as he goes to a priest to take sacrament. After the sacrament, Everyman tells them where his journey ends, and again they all abandon him – except for Good Deeds. Even Knowledge cannot accompany him after he leaves his physical body, but will stay with him until the time of death.

SO whats the moral of the story of Everyman?

Everyman climbs into his grave with Good Deeds at his side and dies, after which they ascend together into heaven, where they are welcomed by an Angel. The play closes as the Doctor enters and explains that in the end, a man will only have his Good Deeds to accompany him beyond the grave.

Conclusion accepting our mortality

Accepting your mortality can be freeing, the more comfortable we become with the reality of death, and the less we deny it, the more grateful we become to the day-to-day things that remind us of our mortality, for example, making more conscious choices in the present.

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