Good News About Death
Two summers ago, someone tried to strangle me and almost succeeded. He came so close that I had resigned myself to death and that experience changed my life.
To be clear, I’m not upset about this anymore. I’ve had over a year and a half to make peace with that incident and I’m okay now.
The purpose of writing about it now is I want to tell people the good news about death and dying. At least what I learned about it from my own experience.
So without further adieu, here’s five things I learned from staring death in the face and surviving. 🙂
#1 You Are Not Your Body
Of course, we have the idea of “body and soul” so that’s nothing new. But it’s easy to have a doubt.
To wonder if maybe we are our body and when the body dies, we die. We’re given over to the earth, and that’s it.
We may say we believe in God and revelation, but how many still seeds of doubt?
When you really think you’re going to die in a violent crime, you and your body will separate. You will suddenly realize firsthand that you are not your body.
Your body really is a conveyance for this world which you will someday shed, and then move on to what’s next.
Some people claim to experience this reality through the use of psychedelics and astral projection. All I know is that you can and do dissociate from your physical body.
I really don’t think there is anything quite like experiencing this for yourself. But if you never get that chance, know that many others have and can testify to the reality of the soul or consciousness beyond the flesh.
#2 Your Body is a Ninja
If you’re facing a life or death threat, your body will dissociate from you and take control.
You may know the sensation of an adrenaline rush when you face a threat. Where everything seems to go into slow motion silence, and you zero in exclusively on whatever is threatening you.
This happened in my situation. All I could see were his hands coming at me as I tried desperately to repel them.
I couldn’t see or hear anything and I couldn’t even see his face.
All focus shifted completely to the hands coming at me. At some point when I realized this was a sustained attack rather than a single angry outburst, terror struck and my body took completely over.
It was bizarre because suddenly my mind was completely free. My body was fighting off my attacker on its own, countering every move like a ninja.
Mundane thoughts went through my mind. I was thinking about how my mother was right when she said this person might one day kill me, and about my dress.
It was at the time my favorite abaya. Long and dark green with a lace pattern, and I was thinking of how it was almost as if I’d dressed up for my own funeral.
At some point, I actually began to feel sorry for my body which seemed so determined to survive. How long can this body really fight off a young man who’s over six feet tall?
At some point, my body is going to lose despite this spectacular effort to survive. Notice I said I felt sorry for my body—not for myself. We were separate.
What your body can do in a life-or-death crisis is completely amazing and will not involve you. 🙂
#3 We All Die Alone
Even if there are a thousand people with you when you die, you will die alone. This is because the experience of dying is completely unique to you.
Even if a person is dying right next to you, your own experience is completely unique and personal and has only to do with you and you alone.
Up until you die, yes, people can make a difference. You want your loved ones around.
But if you ask anyone who works where people often die, they will tell you most people physically die alone.
It’s as if they wait for people to leave before they actually leave this world. You may wait next to a dying relative for days, and then as soon as you go to buy a cup of coffee, that’s when the person dies.
It happens all the time. You will not care about the presence of others in the moment of death, which is your moment alone. And you won’t mind or even think about that.
People who have lived through extreme trauma can already draw on their own experience to understand what I mean. If you’ve suffered an enormous loss you may feel alone among any number of people.
If you’ve experienced trauma over a long period, you may have trouble adjusting to normal life and always feel lonely. Combat vets experience this, and it is called “experiential loneliness.”
Death is the ultimate “experiential loneliness.” Or many I should say “experiential aloneness” because you’re too busy processing what’s happening to actually be lonely.
#4 You Will Surrender Easily
Threats naturally trigger a “fight or flight” response. We’ll all experienced that.
But what happens when you can’t do either successfully? When you can’t get away and you’re losing the fight?
If it’s literally a life or death struggle and you’re losing, then you realize you’re going to die. At that point, you surrender and it’s amazing how easy it is.
My mother had nearly died once and lived to tell about it. In her case, her organs were shutting down and she knew she was dying.
At the time I hadn’t experienced anything similar and couldn’t imagine why she wasn’t terrified! But she assured me that yes, she had realized she was dying, and yes, she’d been completely serene.
As soon as she thought she was going, she was ready. The same thing happened to me. Even though she was facing illness and I was experiencing a violent crime.
In both cases, when the realization hit, we surrendered easily and peacefully to death. Timely intervention saved us both, but we neither of us saw death the same way as before.
#5 You’ll No Longer Fear Death
I still fear being hurt which will cause suffering and may make life harder. But I don’t fear death.
When the Angel of Death arrives, you’ll feel completely serene and ready for what’s next.
Or at least I can say that was how it was for both my mother and me. We no longer feared death.
I should note, however, that I believe I’d still fight vigorously for my life.
And even if I decided not to succumb to a “fight or flight” response, my body would take over and try to survive. I know that from experience, and it’s not something you can voluntarily override.
So I would fight but if I realized I was losing the fight, I have no doubt I’d surrender again and go in peace. Of course, no one knows for sure what comes next, but I didn’t feel a sense of foreboding.
Instead, it was more like remembering. Like I was returning to a state I’d experienced before, and I had no reason to be afraid.
I only experienced these feelings very briefly so it’s not as if I had tons of time to explore. But I know the lasting effect is simply that I don’t fear death as I once did and that gives me peace of mind.
I think it’s very happy news that we really do have a soul or consciousness that transcends earthly life. We already know that on some level but to realize it so completely is a gift.
Allah assured us this life much shorter than it seems and you’ll realize that once it’s over. A bit like a dream (or a nightmare) where you wake up and realize how fleeting the experience really was in our eternal lives.
So ultimately, we should fear only Allah and nothing in His creation.
Not even death. Alhamdulilah. 🙂