WELL DOCTOR, I WON’T WASTE your time. I know what I want… what I need to talk about. I’m gripped by a growing fear, a phobia, perhaps, but more like an obsession. You see, I fear death. I’m afraid to die. While I can imagine that is very common, there is more to it and the reason I fear it, I think you will find, is quite uncommon.
As a boy, I came close to death many times. These were, of course, terrifying experiences, but they were all the more because I didn’t fully understand. I knew intuitively that something terrible almost happened but incapable of appreciating what they really meant.
When I grew into a young man, the horrible truth began to dawn on me. At first, I told myself it was nothing more than luck that kept me alive. But, eventually, fortune alone could not suffice to convince me. Against the fear, I rose to challenge it by telling myself that something, some unknown force, was protecting me. It simply would not allow me to die.
I am sure my youth can account for such a perspective; it is such a child-like notion. You may understand that I became somewhat daring, even reckless, so sure I was of my blessed invulnerability.
Among my friends, there was a joke that the only word needed to describe me was ‘balls’.
But those same friends and members of my family have slowly and steadily died. The thought of death, as I said, must be an awful idea to the human mind, but to lose the ones you love to that grim and ghastly reaper is far worse. I began to suspect that death had spared me but taken them, and I even believe that my own life is bought with each and every demise.
In the effort to convince myself that I was wrong, I made a study of my near-death experiences and the losses of life that had occurred around me. Rather than disproving it, I did the complete opposite. I confirmed it.
Thus began my obsession with staying alive. I feared that each time I was in danger another taken in my place. I started observing a strict regimen of diet and exercise. I worried endlessly about my health. I began to guard myself from all dangers. I even quit my job and I rarely leave my house.
Traveling here was an exercise in courage; the roads are so dangerous…
I can’t climb a ladder. I throw out good food for fear it has gone bad. I won’t allow any kind of toxic chemicals in my home. I’ve become a hypochondriac. My family doctor practically groans each time he sees me, and I see him quite often.
I know it’s ridiculous. I know it must sound insane, but… it gets even worse.
A rational man recognizes that, when he dies, the world will go on without him. I myself, knowing so many that have passed on, can attest that we are still here. But I can’t shake the idea that I only live because others have gone in my place. And I am getting older, my health is, despite my precautions, beginning to fade.
In short, eventually, I must die. And what will happen when I die?
If I am right, if the universe has somehow made an effort to keep me alive, I don’t think this is for my sake. I believe it has done this through an effort to preserve itself. I could almost laugh it off, it’s ridiculous. But year after year, I’ve watched the world grow darker and vile. People, societies, nations… they all seem bent on annihilation. All around are wars, climate changes, pandemics, gang violence, terrorism and terrors I can’t even conceive.
And I am terrified that… When I die, the universe will come to an end. It’s just a matter of time. When I walk out that door, when I go out into that bloody, violent world… I risk it all, for everyone.
But, no matter what I do or don’t do, eventually I must die and there’s nothing I can do about it.
I must die…
and we will die….
story by Joe Stanley