Fighting the Fear of Death

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My father was recently in the hospital, an occurrence that I believe my family has to start getting accustomed to as his Alzheimer’s nears the final stages of the disease. I have never been a fan of hospitals or any setting that involves showing or feeling vulnerability, at least on my part. Yet there are some things in life that we can simply not turn away from. No matter how hard we try to shun them they keep coming back standing in our faces more determined and adamant than before to force us to face them.

When my father had first gotten sick the doctors were having a hard time naming his diagnosis because his symptoms did not fall under a defined medical condition. Eventually they decided to name it early onset of Alzheimer’s as it was the closest thing they could get to. That period of about one month when uncertainty loomed over our heads and the doctors’, that period was the first time I ever thought about death and how drastically it can change life-any life.

Over time I have learnt that the best thing about terminal conditions and diseases is that they teach patience-lots and lots of it. The first stage is inevitable denial. I did not want to acknowledge my father had Alzheimer’s simply because I was too afraid of the changes that lay ahead if something happens to him. Not to mention we never prepared for anything like this happening so soon. So there was ample uncertainty of the future to not accept it. Yet it was to my own detriment. Had I come to terms with the fact sooner, I would have spared myself a lot of mental fatigue and unnecessary stress, as well as not wasted precious time while my father still remembered things more than he does now.

When a person dies suddenly their family is naturally allowed shock and years of coping mechanisms. In cases of terminal illness shock and awe is not an option. You know what is coming next, and you have to be prepared before hand. The mere idea of taking care of a terminally ill person is exhausting. For this I will forever be indebted to my mother for being an exceptionally remarkable caretaker of both my father and my brother who has Down’s Syndrome. She has both of them under her wings, protecting them as much as she can humanly possible.

To say the least, dealing with sudden death is, at least in my situation and experience, easier than dealing with the idea of death hanging on anyone’s head. Yes, we are all destined to die one day, and each breath we take is bringing us closer to it, yet having someone in your life for whom suffering till death has been destined gives you another perspective. While normally the idea of dying and changes that will follow thereafter do not even cross our minds, progressive diseases of loved ones keep reminding us of death and its effects everyday.

It also keeps reminding us that we do not have a lot of time to spend with loved ones so why waste even one moment. Not to mention why waste any moment not being closer to Allah, or our parents, siblings, spouses, children, and even our own selves. It gives us the courage to accept that death is a fact, and no matter when it visits we have to be strong enough to let it change our lives. It helps us cope with the uncertainty death otherwise leaves us with.

My father lost his best friend earlier in the same year his Alzheimer’s kicked in. It was an unexpected situation, one I am positive, he did not imagine would occur so soon in life. I believe it is one of the events that triggered his own disease-the inability to accept death and its resulting changes. Some of us might naturally be strong enough to not let death change us or our daily lives and goals.

The rest, like myself, think about it at least once every day, especially when I am having a hard day, or have a fight with someone close, or am facing any hurdle at all. I remind myself that expending time and energy on anything negative is taking away precious time as my life’s clock ticks me away to death. It reminds me to say a quick prayer before leaving the house, or in the car, or when I wake up or fall asleep, for anyone and everyone, and myself, because I do not fear death, and better still, want to prepare to gracefully and wholeheartedly embrace it. It may be a very big thing to say given that I understand death can strike anyone close to me at any time so while I am not too sure of how I will handle life after death of my father or anyone else close to me, I am sure that in the moment death enters my life I will at least try my best Insha’Allah to not falter and stand firm like the strong person Allah Intends me to be.

The Quran says in 3:185 that, “Every soul shall taste death”. While the deceased certainly tastes death, so do their mourners. Even then we are given hope that we can pray for them, and pray that someone prays for us after we die, so there is hope and faith that when we meet again there will be something more to talk about than grudges or bitterness. In my case, I know I will meet my father, or anyone else who death parts, in a much better place Insha’Allah, and with much better sentiments. So today I pray May Allah Taala Eases death for all of us, and May He Grant us enough patience to emerge as victors from it no matter which side of death we stand on, Ameen.

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