The feeling of dread was overpowering…
I’ve always been uncomfortable with the eerie glow of moonlight and as I looked up at the cold building, I couldn’t shake off my uneasy feeling. I remember that I was sitting on my sofa and thinking about a dear friend of mine who had went through a very slow and painful death. I must have dozed off and when I opened my eyes again I was at the foot of stone steps that led up to this foreboding dismal place. With trepidation, I had grabbed hold of the rail and climbed the steps to the entrance of the building’s great hall. The feeling of dread was almost overpowering.
I entered the hall which seemed to stretch into infinity, the sound of my footsteps on the stone floor echoing around the walls. Everything was so dark with just a hint of blue away in the distance. I could just make out alcoves to the left and right. There was no furniture except further up the hall, where two slat back chairs faced each other, three metres apart. I reached the first chair and sat down. I knew I would have to wait, because I was aware that I had been here before. I looked at the alcove to my left and then to my right, there was nothing to see, no statues or pictures. I turned to face the front.
There was a man sitting on the chair facing me. It was too dark to see his face, all I could see was his outline, the blue light behind him was now much brighter, casting his shadow.
“Hello”, I called out, nervously.
I waited for a response.
I tried again, “Can you help me?”
“I’m scared of dying!”, I blurted out, my voice echoing down the great hall. I could not believe I said that out loud.
What seemed like minutes, but was probably only a few seconds, he eventually spoke.
“You are NOT scared of dying. You are scared of the pain and indignity of dying."
His voice is quiet, almost whispering, but his words seemed to pass through me, making me shiver.
“I don’t understand.”
“Suppose I were to tell you that one week from today you will go to bed for the last time, fall asleep and never wake up? No pain, just peacefully passing away - are you scared of dying that way? Answer truthfully."
I thought about this. I don’t believe in God or any notion of life after death. No matter how bad I’d been, there was no hell waiting for me. I’m alone and old with failing health, never see my family and my close friends have either died or lost contact . No one would miss me and I certainly wouldn’t miss them. So why was I scared if dying? I have no dependants, I’d be leaving no debt or scandal. I had provided for the disposal of my body after I died. I realised that here was really nothing to fear about dying, since all my fears were all about what I was leaving behind. My memories would die with me.
I felt as if a great weight of guilt had been lifted from me. No one needed me or would mourn my death, so why should I worry about what they think? I had never fully realised this before. My inner thoughts came to the surface and I realised that I had been burying these feelings deep within my subconscious, never discussing them with anyone or even letting these thoughts enter my conscious mind.
“I know there’s nothing after death, so dying like that holds no fear for me. But how many people are fortunate enough to die that way? The ones I’ve seen die are in great pain or drugged up so much they don’t know where they are, but can still here their family talk about them, but not to them. Some suffering the indignity of wearing incontinence pads and being fed through a tube. For some unlucky people, the pain of cancer eats away at their body.”
“There are a few things that you can do to lessen the chances of you suffering as you die, some of which you know of already, although there is no guarantee that your body won’t fail unexpectedly anyway. You know you’re overweight, don’t exercise and drink too much. You’ve done nothing to redress this situation and if you don’t, you risk a massive heart attack and will die - although you suffer pain briefly, it is preferable to having a stroke. A stroke could take away all your freedom and you’d be trapped in your body that is either paralysed, or leaving you unable to communicate."
“Apart from looking after myself, what else can I do to lessen the chances of a painful death?”
“Just because you may end up in a hospital bed doesn’t mean that you will be in pain. As you lie there, your body is being looked after by medical staff or if you are at home, your body is being controlled by drugs - but your mind is still free. Forgotten memories will resurface and your imagination will take you places. You will mind travel again, a forgotten skill you lost after childhood.
As from now, every morning when you wake up, be thankful that you are still healthy and mobile enough to be free to do what you want. Don’t waste your day."
“Remember - each day you wake up is like a new dawn. You are alive and there is still so much to see and do. Don’t waste your thoughts on negativity. Think about how to spend this day - and get the most out of life."
The blue light behind him slowly became dimmer.
“And now it is time for you to go."
It was getting colder. I heard a noise behind me, like a door opening. I looked over my shoulder but could not see anything through the gloom. When I turned back round, he had gone.
I was glad to leave that dismal unwelcoming place which, through fear, I rarely visited. Then it dawned on me. The reason I rarely visited was because I would discover my inner self, with all its selfishness, vices and fears. In this place I would get honest truthful answers to questions I would never dare ask myself in normal circumstances.
I recognised the man that spoke to me.
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