I'd worked with elders for years, so I had certainly been thinking about my own death during some of the time I was spending with those who might well have been closer to their own deaths than I was to mine. I never took that for granted however.
I remember one of the youngest people who worked with me at an Assisted Living Facility, who was shot one night. That was a tragedy that shocked everyone, staff and residents equally. His funeral was very well attended. His wife said he'd gone outside to check if there was a prowler. She heard someone on the other side of the bedroom door and shot him through the door, accidentally thinking he was the prowler.
Anyway, death is a constant companion of elders. Maybe that young man thought of his death occasionally, since he was around elders daily just like me. It doesn't mean people are depressed just because they think about their death. Unless they start planning a way to make themselves die.
I do have the feeling often that I might be dying right now, whenever I have chest pains, tingling fingers, etc.. What if I have a heart attack is usually my first thought, whenever I feel something doesn't feel right. Those jokes on TV weren't completely off base. It's one of the first thoughts. I just don't use it to get attention. I never have told anyone that I think about it.
Will there actually be that light at the end of a tunnel? I joke when I say this, though I know many people think seriously about that.
Lately I've been thinking that I'll probably be with the spirits of lots of my ancestors. There's a reason for that. It's more real in my experience than that tunnel.
Every October for the past few years (and I don't remember how long) I've been visited in my dreams while asleep by various ancestors. So far they have all been people I've known...not anyone relatives who died before I was born. But I've had to ask them, respectfully, to let me get some rest during the night.
I have no doubt that this time of year, with the changing weather, the reaping of crops, the snuggling under covers while the north wind turns cold, that there are spiritual presences that can be available for those who are open to communicating with them.
Now I'm not into seances, rituals where the dead are asked questions, or psychics generally. But when people say the "veil between the worlds is thin" I have to agree.
So that's why I'm thinking of my own death so much also these days. I figure if I do drop dead any time soon...I might have to deal with these spirits in some way, and perhaps a lot more intimately.
There's lots of theories about life after death. I've always (well, maybe since I was a young adult) believed that the after-life was just what each of us believed it to be. Sort of a smorgasbord of available choices, based upon a religious or non-religious belief of each person.
And for me I just figured it wasn't what any religion said it would be. That's because all of the religious beliefs I've heard of have completely irrational answers, certainly unprovable. So one belief I had was that a person's soul or spirit continues in the minds of those who remember them, and the body becomes chemicals that are returned to nature to nurture new life forms, from plants to animals and insects.
But I have also begun to believe that reincarnation makes sense. Unfortunately there isn't a lot of support for that belief in a Christian neighborhood. But if there is a continuing essence, perhaps the spirit or soul of the individual, I would like to think of it changing into another consciousness. And I also enjoy the thought that this essence would address similar issues that I've dealt with in my life, and perhaps do better than I have, so the next time (or the next) there would be a completion. This final sense of enlightenment is satisfying, where the spirit or soul would no longer be held by the issues and can be totally free to join with some kind of eternal bliss.
But I don't pretend to know this as true. So death just represents something that will perhaps provide answers to this curiosity. Just as my belief in a deity is that She is immanent, within each and every thing around me, so has my death become part of my daily activities. In the meantime, I've got a lot of living to do still.
And my ancestors who visit me at night may have something they want me to listen to, if I'd only be able to understand it.