No Fear of Death

A very close friend of mine died this week. I’m struggling to come to terms with it. This post isn’t about him.

A few years ago someone I knew died while at work. I’d met him at a couple of conferences, and he’d been a patient and skilful reviewer of one of my books. I can’t honestly say I got to know him well, but he was well liked and respected in the community and gave his time generously.

He died of heart failure. He was single, with no dependants. None of his colleagues even knew he was ill.

In the wake of the tragedy, it emerged he’d known about the condition for a while. He’d been told that a transplant was his only option. He’d asked not to be put on the waiting list. There were too many tragedies like his, he thought; men and women who would leave parentless-children, financial hardship and familial devastation. He didn’t want anyone to delay their chance at life to wait for his.

I don’t know if he had faith or not. At the time it happened, the events caused me to suspect he did. Now I suspect he did not. Regardless, his motivation is irrelevant: I know I would not have had the moral courage or selflessness to make the same decision.

Would you?

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “No Fear of Death

  1. I have learned that we don’t know what we will do or feel until we are there. When our world changes, so do we.
    Sorry for the loss, Ian.

  2. i agree with sabio. sorry for your loss man, sounds like a good person that the world lost.

  3. Ian

    @sabio I guess you see this a reasonable amount, or did at least when working in the ER. I’m sure things change when you are there at the point of facing up to your mortality.

    Thanks for the good wishes, guys. I’ve not lost someone so close to me before, so it is a new frontier.

  4. Yes, Ian, I have seen much, too much death in my life, both professionally and personally. But all the deeply close friends death’s all seem like yesterday but without the tears unless I talk too much about their death — if I talk about their life, I still laugh and smile.

    At one time I was told I would probably die but they were wrong. I remember being surprised but cheerful and felt satisfied that I had had a very good life and was fortunate. Even when I was in the ambulance be transferred to a higher care hospital I joked with the ambulance attendant (EMT) and we talked all about his career and future dreams. I surprised myself. BUT, if I were told I had a slow terminal illness, I think things would be very different — I’d probably be very pathetic. I am not afraid to suddenly die ( and have not be so for a long time), but suffering and humiliating death is the one that scares me.

    Again, wishing you comfort with your loss and to his fellow friends.

  5. Great story Ian! Hard to say why some do things like that. It sounds like he did not fear death.

    A friend died last month.. he committed suicide.. I am still struggling with his death.. he was a a great gut and a year older than me.. he struggled with depression.. sometimes life does not make sense.

  6. Curious, Ian, why did you write about another friend’s life when you had lost this dear friend?

  7. Ian

    @Bob, thanks for sharing. I’m aware of what you’ve been through too, aside from your recent bereavement.

    @sabio Because the guy who’s the subject of this post has been on my mind this week. I have no idea why my best man died, he wasn’t ill and there were no signs of a mechanism. I can’t help but wonder if he knew something he wasn’t sharing. Like I said, I’m not exactly being rational about it, which I’m sure is normal.

  8. Boy, that is odd. Are you going to the funeral? Did you talk to other friends? Is it back in England? (too far away?)
    When I lost close friends I saw them in dreams for months. You?

  9. CRL

    How ironic that the person most deserving to live is the one who sacrifices his life.

  10. Ian

    Yes, I appreciate the aesthetic of your comment.

    But if you meant it, I don’t agree.

    Most deserving of life? That’s the point, isn’t it?

    I find his action moving because at some level I agree with it. It is, in some instinctive sense (for me), worse for a father of a dependent young family to die than a single man. Even if the single man was more righteous, and of better character than the father.

    If it had been the other way around – if he’d opted out despite leaving desperation behind, I’d be angry instead I think.

    A different colleague of mine committed suicide 5 years ago, leaving a 3 year old son and an unemployed wife. He doesn’t get the same kind of eulogy, I’m afraid. Even though I understand how he lost the fight against his mental illness.

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