Death

It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of every man;
the living should take this to heart.

Ecclesiastes 7:2

I don't think I had really believed that death was possible until my dad passed away in August 2018. It turns out that there is a great deal of difference between the vague awareness of death and the acute certainty of it before and after losing someone close.

This is because experiencing the true impact of death is fundamentally a rare event. The impact comes from irrevocably losing connection to someone who, in good ways and bad, has been part of your life as long as you can remember. I find the violent shift in the universe in which the connection you took for granted is suddenly cut off extremely foreign and unnatural.

Again, I cannot overemphasize how strange I find the fact that upon death, a person is literally removed from this world forever. There is absolutely no trace of the person's cognition left to be found. There will never again be any form of communication with the person. It is as if the person never existed to begin with.

Pain and Loss of Dignity

A character in Game of Thrones remarks that "if the gods wanted people to have dignity they would not have made them fart when they died". We can only comfortably philosophize about death when we are far away from it. The only subject in a dying man's mind is the immediate pain. Indeed, blessed are the few who die naturally and obliviously in sleep due to old age, for they bypass much of this painful process.

Death (by illness) is, among other things, inherently a messy and shameful affair. It involves being hospitalized, wearing adult diapers and pooping/pissing on bed, relying on others to clean up your own mess, and in the final stage losing your memory and cognition while still alive. Given that this is a process that everyone must go through, the social obsession with physical attraction and cheap beauty through petty means like expensive brands seems beyond ludicrous.

My dad lost sight due to an irresponsible practice of a hospital in 2011. For the next 7-8 years, I only had to observe him to learn how terrifying life could be. Blind and immobile (he had lost his leg in a bus accident as a kid), he lost the joy and pride of practicing as a surgeon, was forgotten by his friends and acquaintances, continuously degraded in overall health, and the whole time burned with bitterness of how this could be. There was no hope to begin with of ever seeing better days again in this world. The only reason he kept on living was his faith in God and his unconditional and desparate hope for salvation.

He died a long and painful death, his last weeks not able to breathe properly, not able to lie down, and forgotten who he was. Despite everything, I am glad that it is over for him. I truly believe that no one could withstand such misery for much longer without completely losing one's mind. Eight years of darkness is enough.

For Us Living

Death is fair. Upon death, the personal status has zero meaning: intelligent or ignorant, powerful or weak, pretty or ugly, male or female, black or white or Asian, rich or poor, young or old. The sharpest mind becomes a babbling idiot. The beauty becomes disgusting to look upon.

Considering the reality of death, how do we make sense of life? Plenty of wise people flat out admit that life is meaningless and live it, pursuing whatever they think is important at the moment. As for me, I cannot live life knowing that it is meaningless, thus I choose to have faith in God and his goodness and the life after. Regardless of whether one has a religion or not, I firmly believe the following to be indisputable: it is impossible for life to be meaningful if the life in this world is all there is, since we all must die painfully and without dignity, and the last evidence of our existence must be erased.

There is plenty of efforts to defend the reality of afterlife (e.g., an account by a neurosurgeon who suffered brain death and recovered). I sometimes entertain myself that God is a (C++) programmer and we in this world are pointers. A pointer is merely an address; it "points" to the memory location of the actual object it represents. In particular, the life and death of the pointer variable itself has no implication to the persistent existence of the object.

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