I’m not sure what made this pop into my head, but I thought it would be interesting to discuss what we would like to happen when/after we die. It’s a slightly different question from what you believe will happen, and the answers to those questions aren’t necessarily the same. For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that none of us knows or can know what happens when humans die, and any one possibility is just as likely to be true as any other possibility. I’m interested here in the wanting rather than the believing.
I’m inclined to think that the common human desire for life not to end with death is one of the reasons why religion exists and has been ubiquitous throughout the world for a very long time. Even if there is one true, objectively accurate religion, if you look at the wide array of different religious belief systems that have existed throughout history, some of them are mutually exclusive (e.g. polytheistic vs. monotheistic), so it seems fairly certain that there are at least some people who have (or have had) religious beliefs that do not actually correspond to reality.
We can probably all agree, for example, that the Ancient Greeks didn’t get it right with their hypersexual pantheon. That’s who I’m referring to when I talk about religion existing to explain death – the people, whoever they might happen to be, that believe(d) something that isn’t true. And the explaining death part seems to be a common thread across the board with different religious faiths.
I feel like I might be the exception to the norm in my desire for life to end with death. As a soft atheist, I figure that when I die, it’s the same thing as when one of my guinea pigs dies – it’s just the end. But more importantly for the sake of this discussion, I’m good with life just ending. Scratch that, I’m more than just good with it; it’s what I actively want. I have no desire at all to stick around for eternity in any way, shape, or form. I want me, whatever me is, to end when the electrical activity in my brain stops. I want my body to be burned to transform me into heat and ash, and that’s the end of the story.
I already feel like my natural life is likely to be far longer than I want it to be. My family is ridiculously long-lived, and one of my grandmas is still alive and kicking at the ripe old age of 105. The idea that I might not even be halfway through my natural life is all kinds of repulsive to me. I don’t want to stick around for another 10 years, much less an eternity.
As I said, I’m probably rather unusual in my feelings on the matter. So now it’s over to you – regardless of what you believe is most likely, what would you most like to happen or feel most comfortable with happening when you die?
66 thoughts on “What Do You Want to Happen When You Die?”
I hope to continue consciousness in peace and to see once again those who have died before me. I hope to understand the Trinity. I also care a lot about an afterlife for the purposes of redeeming all the suffering and bring everything to a just closure. I believe the desire to continue living is not merely to bring comfort but a desire for the eternal.
Interesting – to me eternity feels like the ultimate lack of closure.
I think it’d feel like a lack of closure if we kept going on the way we do here. But I think we will open our eyes and understand. One time in therapy I was crying about how horrible and unfair the world is and how much suffering there is, and my therapist suggested the idea that perhaps life is like a big tapestry, and all we see right now is the messy back side of it. Someday we’ll see the front of it and understand.
That would be nice.
I hope I go in my sleep! I don’t want to be lying in some hospital a total vegetable, not knowing anything or anyone.
I already have my living will made and I have instructed that there be no “heroics”. Do not want a funeral, no viewing, not even at the funeral home.
I hate open caskets, I believe it is the last image you remember of that family member or friend. We know how poorly some funeral homes do with the makeup of the person.
I hate the concept of open caskets, but I’ve never actually been to a funeral. It’s not really a thing in my family – people just haven’t wanted to have funerals, and I don’t want one either.
I attended my grandfather’s in 1975. Then in 2000 I had to attend my mother’s.
Those images are the ones I seem to remember front and center. It grows harder to remember what they looked like smiling and other aspects of them.
I find life very enjoyable, most of the time. Bit for me what makes it that is the exclusivity of it. Yolo. And there’s an end date. I hope to live as long as possible, hope that I can give my family hugs and kisses, share with my friends a last pint of beer, and then just drop dead at 97. I want there to be nothing after. Or even less!
Sounds like a good way to go!
I’m SO WITH YOU. I love life but life has been unkind to me since I chose to openly write about being sexually, physically, and emotionally abused throughout my 48 years. I hoped for freedom and to advocate for legal reform, but no. I have two adult sons, they know I wish to be cremated, and I have a decent life insurance policy I’ve paid for over the last 25 years so that’s what matters to me. Them.
I’m sorry you haven’t been able to find that freedom.
I’m an atheist and I believe my consciousness will end.
What I want is different, I’m terrified of my consciousness ending forever and I have panic attacks about it.
I don’t believe in Hell either, which is a relief as I used to believe in Hell is a place of eternal torture and I’ve been told a lot that I’ll go there…
What do I want? I don’t know clearly… I know I want to be conscious and happy with loved ones. But I’ve almost no one so I hope I could make friends with people and animals in the afterlife.
Added: Phillip Larkin’s Aubade really speaks to me…it addresses how the reassurance many atheists believe isn’t reassuring for some.
I hadn’t heard of Aubade before. It’s really well written.
It is! I found it after Googling stuff like “I’m an atheist but afraid of death”.
I have been thinking about death quite a bit recently even kind of looking forwards to it – if l am lucky l’ll be composted that would be cool, better still feed me to the worms. I think so many people fear death, l know it’s a one way ticket and l am okay about that, the way the world is shaping up, l don’t want to be back and l’ll take no offers on that either. We live, we die. We are born, we live the life, we die and we are dead. I am good with that recipe.
Me too. Dying is just as natural a part of living as birth.
I look at it like this – Before we were born, we were floating in warm fluid, fed thru a cord, listening to voices and music. We don’t know what’s next, not evening thinking there is a next. We certainly don’t expect to be thrust through a tunnel toward a bright light with that warm, cozy place left behind. At death, we may again be pushed into a bright light, leaving our comfort zones.
When it comes to what I want, Ilike you I don’t fear death but welcome it. I have long-lived relatives as well. Feels like a life sentence. Hahaha
I’d really like death to be like outer space with stars and other heavenly orbs, our loved ones there who went before, with a sense of joy and peace. On the other hand, if I’m out when the electricity in my brain stops, won’t even know so no worries!
“Feels like a life sentence” – Yes!
We have asked our family to have us cooked and then sprinkle our dust in places on earth we appreciated. It is legal (at present) to discreetly scatter people dust in US National Parks
A park sounds like a nice spot.
I would like after-death to be exactly like before-birth.
As someone who has struggled with suicidal thoughts, I’ve thought about this a lot actually. I guess I’d want some form of heaven or eternal bliss, but I guess most everyone wants that. It’s interesting because I’ve been reading about near-death experiences (NDEs) lately. Many of them describe something similar to heaven, lights at the end of the tunnel, etc.
Another interesting aspect of this is that I think that though I yearn for death sometimes because of suicidality, I will probably be terrified right before it happens, if I actually know it’s about to happen.
When I’m highly suicidal, I tend to get a rush of fear around potentially not dying or dying painfully.
I can relate.