Death and Dying in the 21st Century

Living in the modern era of medicine has skewed our perception of our ultimate reality: death. It is seen as something to be avoided or at least postponed as much as possible. Life expectancies are increasing, while our direct interaction with and care for the elderly decreases. We are anti-aging and obsessed with youth. In our rejection of this natural progression, we are immersing ourselves in denial of our final state.

Medical interventions are surrounded by words rooted in life. “Life-saving” procedures and interventions resulting in “prolonged life expectancy” are hailed and deemed superior because beating death is the goal — to remain on this earth forever. The thing is, the one commonality among all humanity is death. It’s inevitable. So, it’s actually “death-postponing” procedures and interventions. We have so distanced ourselves from viewing the aging and dying processes that we have become afraid of death.

Naturally, death is not something we actively seek. That’s flying to the other end of the spectrum. But it IS something that will happen.

While there are so many reasons to want to stay in this life, and to encourage seeking prudent medical treatment for various illnesses, serious or otherwise, we must also respect when the decision to stop running from death occurs. When someone who has suffered and will only continue to suffer says “I have had enough.” The bravery it takes to accept the mantle of death is magnificent, and as loved ones, it is our job to ensure that mantle is a gentle embrace rather than a painful burden.

I have witnessed the callous and selfish statements of a loved one “giving up” on their fight for their life. The destruction and devastation that comes from statements like these can cause lasting damage. Heroism is not only found in those who fight, but for those who face adversity with courage in their conviction; those who have embraced the truth of death and are wise enough to recognize its inevitability.

Often, the examination of this fear of death reveals a dissatisfaction with one’s current life state. This should be recast into fuel for one’s dreams, and bringing one’s idea of “a life well-lived” into reality. Living well, loving well, leads to dying well.

Sarah is a 30-something mom of four children under six and wife to her high-school sweetheart. She returned to Acadiana two years ago following her husband’s completion of medical school and residency in Shreveport. After the move, Sarah switched gears from full-time pediatric speech-language pathologist and working mom to full-time stay-at-home mom to her brood. Her current hobbies include “speech-therapizing” her children, re-reading the Outlander series, catching up on her Netflix queue after the kids go to bed, completing XHIT videos at naptime, and taking her medication every morning. She loves and respects the sacredness of motherhood, but sometimes you just have to let go and laugh it out. Motherhood has been the most humbling, and empowering journey she has experienced.

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