To This Day! Movies Luck and Circumstance Songs Silliness Impermanence Me In Time History Your Life, a Story Earth in Context Mist Death More Intimate

We all die.

Every person you’ve ever known, every relative and friend, every pet, every living thing you’ve ever heard about or seen dies at some point. Dying is part of life. It reflects the larger Impermanence of all things.

There’s a funny, inexplicable separation between knowing something intellectually, and KNOWING something by experience. Everyone currently alive knows they’re going to die, yet almost none of them have done it before.

About 84% of people in the world identify with a religion and, presumably, see existential solutions to the idea of death. But even in those cases, many of us fear death, perhaps for ‘unfinished business,’ fear of the experience of death, or some level of doubt.

It’s no surprise that considering death can stir up fear. Denial is a common means of coping with the fact. Such is the central idea in Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Denial of Death, for example.

“The irony of man’s condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.”― Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

Infographic from Independent
Here is another graphic, comparing causes/numbers from 2000 to 2019.

And yet, neither does knowing that death is imminent mean that all is peachy keen.
Losing a loved one is one of the largest sources of Grief in life. We have an entire section devoted to helping prepare for, deal with, and help others. Please give it a look if it may help you:

The goal of this page, however, is to bring us back to the reasonable middle ground:

  • knowing we’re going to die
  • letting it be ok
  • talking and thinking about it more openly
  • letting it inform our time alive

So, here’s to death! Here’s to the friend that we all share to greet us at the end of life’s path.

Perspective and Memento Mori

Projects, Tools, and Data

Practical Articles

Media

  • PodcastYou’re Going to Die: The Podcast – A creatively conscious mortality podcast for a 501(3) nonprofit bringing diverse communities creatively into the conversation of death and dying, inspiring life by unabashedly sourcing our shared mortality.
  • Docuseries – The Casketeers (Netflix) – A documentary series about the ins and outs of funeral directing.
  • MovieFlatliners – In this mystery/drama, 5 students explore near-death experiences by stopping their hearts for short periods of time, giving them a firsthand account of the afterlife.
  • Movie CollectionPost-Apocalyptic Movies – This list from IMDB features movies that will highlight the frailty of life on a large scale.

Other Links

  • PoemWhen Death Comes – A short and thoughtful poem by Mary Oliver.
  • AppWeCroak – An app that sends you 5 notifications per day to remind you of your mortality. (Google Play Store) (AppStore)
  • Art for SaleThe Dance of Death Print – Art for sale by the Daily Stoic, including a line of french poetry: “My arrow (I promise you) spares no oneYou will all dance the ballet of which I sing”
  • Watch for Sale – “The Accurate” from Mr. Jones watches reminds you of death as you check the time.
  • ExerciseMake a Stethoscope – 3 ways to construct a stethoscope at home.

On Dying a Good Death

Personal Anecdotes and Coping

Vignettes and Ideas

  • NDE’s – Near-death experiences have long inspired afterlife beliefs.
  • Day of the Dead Altars – This informative gallery presents altars from rich traditions of appreciation of death. Here is a guide of an altar’s elements.
  • The End – An immersive performance game that helps players come closer to their mortality.
  • Richard Dawkins on the Luckiness of Death – Reflecting on the “awe-filled wonder of aliveness, the sheer luck of it against the overwhelming cosmic odds of nonexistence.”
  • Digital Día de Muertos Altar – An LA Times project to celebrate your passed loved ones.
  • By the River – At India’s ‘death hotels’, devout Hindus seek liberation from cycles of rebirth. This is both a beautiful short film and an article.
  • Stanley Kubrick Answers a Question – The existential wisdom of Kubrick in this comic is startling.
  • My Own Life – Oliver Sachs talks about learning he has terminal cancer.
  • Some Thoughts from Ben Matlak – An inspiring reflection on life after near-death.

Games on Steam

  • I Am Dead – A charming puzzle adventure game from the creators of Hohokum and Wilmot’s Warehouse about exploring the afterlife.
  • Spiritfarer – a cozy management game about dying. As ferry master to the deceased, build a boat to explore the world, care for your spirit friends, and guide them across mystical seas to finally release them into the afterlife. What will you leave behind?
  • Gorogoa – an elegant evolution of the puzzle genre, told through a beautifully hand-drawn story that, without words, explores motifs of mortality and aging.

A Comic from Zen Pencils

We love this comic, in which Stanley Kubrick’s quote is explored as a response to the human condition of creating meaning in life, despite inevitable death. You can check out the original post on the Zen Pencils website here. (Click to see the whole comic)

Videos

Addressing Fear of Death

Death Anxiety and Terror Management

Conquering Our Fear of Death, from Shots of Awe

A 10-minute summary of the ideas behind The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker
(5-minute summary)

We fear it so much that we avoid thinking about it at all costs — even when death is exactly what we think we’re talking about.

What You Learn During a Plane Crash – A man recounts his brush with death, complete with time to digest his thoughts.

A short special about Death Cafes, in which folks get together to talk more openly about death.

On Time of Death

Am I dying? What happens next when a badly hurt person asks you this question.

This docu-series follows brave, terminally ill individuals as they live out their final days, supported by family, friends, healthcare teams and hospice workers, who gently help guide the process.
This clip shows Cheyenne, suffering from ALS, possessing a powerful sense of spirit and optimism.

What Really Matters at the End of Life – At the end of our lives, what do we most wish for? Learn more about BJ Miller’s project here.

Here is something that could happen to your body after it’s donated to science. These looks at ‘Body Worlds,’ the fascinating work of Dr. Gunther Von Hagen, but the simple material reality of life and death into sharp relief.

Motivational Videos on Death

Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.

Life Is Short: How to Add a Sense of Urgency | Tim Ferriss

Why most people ‘die’ before 25. A motivational perspective.

Insights on Death

What I learned from 2,000 obituaries – Lux Narayan starts his day with scrambled eggs and the question: “Who died today?” Why? By analyzing 2,000 New York Times obituaries over a 20-month period, Narayan gleaned, in just a few words, what achievement looks like over a lifetime.

A hypothetical secret glimpse into the lives of people inside a hospital building. We are all dealing with a lot more than you might think, especially the ever-present threat of dying.

Consider This…

The odds that your cause of death will be in a fatal car crash are at least 1 in 113. (source)(source)(source)
Every time you get in a car, the likelihood that you will THEN die in a car crash are 1 in 47,718. (source)
The odds that you will sustain some kind of injury from a car crash in your lifetime are about 1 in 200. (source)

Here is a good article with car accident statistics by country.

How would we handle the fear of death if we truly understood how much it is a constant companion?

A couple more interesting facts:

Click the image to see the full infographic.

Fatal Driving Facts

Car-related injuries and deaths went up 12% in 2021, the highest ever.
The following fatal driving facts come from the Safer America Consumer Safety Information project.

  • About 40,000 people are killed in motor vehicle accidents annually in the U.S. (27,000 occupants, 6,000 motorcyclists, 7,000 non-occupants)
  • Around 1.3 million in the world die each year in car accidents, or about 3,300 per day. 53% of those killed are drivers, 17% are passengers, 16% pedestrians, 14% motorcyclists.
  • The deadliest hours are 12-3 am and 6-9 pm on Saturdays
  • 58% involve only one vehicle. 40% hit stationary objects (tree, etc.)
  • The biggest category is 21-24 year-old males. But 16-19 year-olds have the highest accident rate.
  • 27% involve speeding, 50% are not wearing a seat belt.
  • You double the risk if there is one passenger, and increase risk 5 times if there are 3 or more occupants
  • Texting increases risk by 2,300%. Talking on the phone increases the risk by 220%.

Conclusions:
Do not speed. Don’t drink, talk, or text while driving. Buckle the seat belt. Don’t talk or listen to passengers. Avoid driving Saturday nights. Sorry, there is no known cure for being a young male.

Books

Staring at the Sun is a profoundly encouraging approach to the universal issue of mortality. In this magisterial opus, capping a lifetime of work and personal experience, Dr. Yalom helps us recognize that the fear of death is at the heart of much of our anxiety.

Winner of the Pulitzer prize in 1974 and the culmination of a life’s work, The Denial of Death is Ernest Becker’s brilliant and impassioned answer to the “why” of human existence. In bold contrast to the predominant Freudian school of thought, Becker tackles the problem of the vital lie — man’s refusal to acknowledge his own mortality.
Check out our page summarizing this book here.

Knowing he was dying, Morrie visited with Mitch in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college.  Their rekindled relationship turned into one final “class”: lessons in how to live.

Following the death of her father, journalist and hospice volunteer Ann Neumann sets out to examine what it means to die well in the United States.

Practical Advice on Death

This book offers everything from step-by-step instructions for how to do your paperwork and navigate the healthcare system to answers to questions you might be afraid to ask your doctor, like whether or not sex is still okay when you’re sick. Get advice for how to break the news to your employer, whether to share old secrets with your family, how to face friends who might not be as empathetic as you’d hoped, and how to talk to your children about your will.

For more than 5,000 years, “old” has been defined as beginning between the ages of 60 and 70. That means most people alive today will spend more years in elderhood than in childhood, and many will be elders for 40 years or more. Yet at the very moment that humans are living longer than ever before, we’ve made old age into a disease, a condition to be dreaded, denigrated, neglected, and denied.

Looking both east and west, in bulletins from the past and from far afield, Oliver Burkeman introduces us to an unusual group of people who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. Whether experimental psychologists, terrorism experts, Buddhists, hardheaded business consultants, Greek philosophers, or modern-day gurus, they argue that in our personal lives, and in society at large, it’s our constant effort to be happy that is making us miserable.

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should. Through eye-opening research and gripping stories of his own patients and family, Gawande reveals the suffering this dynamic has produced.

Vignettes

Cases of remarkable experiences on the threshold of death have been reported since ancient times, and are described today by 10% of people whose hearts stop. The medical world has generally ignored these “near-death experiences,” dismissing them as “tricks of the brain” or wishful thinking. But after his patients started describing events that he could not just sweep under the rug, Dr. Bruce Greyson began to investigate.

At once funny, wistful and unsettling, Sum is a dazzling exploration of unexpected afterlives—each presented as a vignette that offers a stunning lens through which to see ourselves in the here and now.

As medical director of the famed Preventive Medicine Research Institute, Lee Lipsenthal helped thousands of patients struggling with disease to overcome their fears of pain and death and to embrace a more joyful way of living.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

Quotes

Joy at the smallest things comes to you only when you have accepted death. But if you look out greedily for all that you could still live, then nothing is great enough for your pleasure, and the smallest things that continue to surround you are no longer a joy. Therefore I behold death, since it teaches me how to live. If you accept death, it is altogether like a frosty night and an anxious misgiving, but a frosty night in a vineyard full of sweet grapes. You will soon take pleasure in your wealth. Death ripens. One needs death to be able to harvest the fruit. Without death, life would be meaningless, since the long-lasting rises again and denies its own meaning. To be, and to enjoy your being, you need death, and limitation enables you to fulfill your being. – Carl Jung

Live like it’s your last day…What does that even mean?
Does it mean you should party with crack and hookers all day long? Or does it mean “don’t worry about the future”?
I have two kids. I have to think about the future. And crack doesn’t seem like fun. And I’d rather be with someone I love.
I try to do this instead: live life like it’s everyone else’s last day.
Then you learn to treat everyone with the highest respect. They are dying tomorrow! – James Altucher.

“Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.”
– William Wallace

“Fast-forward xx years from today. Imagine that scene of your own funeral. You have that program in your hand. What does it say? You watch your loved ones get up and speak about you and their love for you. What do they say? Who were you in their eyes?”
– Steven Covey

“Although the physicality of death destroys us, the idea of death may save us.”
– Irvin Yalom

“The hospitals alone remind us of the quality of man.”
– W.H. Auden

“Every time you wake up and ask yourself, ‘What good things am I going to do today?’ remember that, when the sun goes down at sunset, it will take a part of your life with it.”
– Indian Proverb

“Everything’s destiny is to change, to be transformed, to perish. So that new things can be born.”
– Marcus Aurelius

“Death is always and under all circumstances a tragedy, for if it is not, then it means that life itself has become one.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

“You’re dead. It’s the only long-term bet you can make with absolute certainty. The probability is a perfect 1.”
– Anonymous

“Aristotle says that there are little animals by the river Hypanis that live only a day. The one that dies at eight o’clock in the morning dies in its youth; the one that dies at five in the afternoon dies in its decrepitude. Which of us does not laugh to see this moment of duration considered in terms of happiness or unhappiness? The length or shortness of our duration, if we compare it with eternity, or yet with the duration of mountains, rivers, stars, trees, and even of some animals, is no less ridiculous.” – Montaigne

A poem by Chip Conley:
“I was born and life was simple.
I learned and life became more complex.
I entered adulthood and life became complicated.
I stumbled into elderhood and discovered wisdom.
I will die and life will once again be simple.
I was a “first-class noticer” when I was born.
I will be one again as I grow whole.
I was born with wonder.
I will die with awe.””

“Real freedom is born when our personal mental model of reality somehow reconciles the paradox between a deep, abiding love of life with a complete indifference towards death. Not just our death, but the death of everyone we love, too. That’s likely beyond most mortals, but it’s the axis where true courage is born.” – Zat Rana

Snippets

These snippets from The Week magazine each serve as intimate reminders of death.

To This Day! Movies Luck and Circumstance Songs Silliness Impermanence Me In Time History Your Life, a Story Earth in Context Mist Death More Intimate