By Shlomoh
To the ACOA YAHOO Group
January 28, 2004

--- "Judy W."  wrote:

 Hi Group, Crystal's share inspired me to share
 something about losing a very dear friend to death
 about 6 years ago.
 I worked for a clinic that employed a family
 counselor on the team. He and I were close friends

 One day he was killed suddenly in a car accident.  

 I couldn't understand why he had to die.
 I had this neighbor, a very elderly man, who was
 alone & very sick.
 Seeing that sad, sick, old man made me even more
 furious at the powers that allowed him to live on
 for several more years after my precious friend had
 been killed.
 I found something in a book that has helped me
 accept death. Its written by Kahlil Gibran in his
 book "The Prophet".
 "What is it to die but to stand naked in the wind
 and to melt into the sun?
 And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the
 breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and
 expand and seek God unencumbered?"
 "Only when you drink from the river of silence shall
 you indeed sing.
 And when you have reached the mountain top, then you
 shall begin to climb.
 And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then
 shall you truly dance."

Apropos of Judy's share, I must recount what happened once I reached my 60th birthday. Suddenly an old fear returned - the fear of death. This was linked  with the loss of my religious faith some seven years earlier. The fear became obsessional - causing me to lose sleep and experience panic attacks. This lasted for several months and I expressed my fears to those closest to me but their good expressions and platitudes were of no help to me.

Suddenly I found myself attracted to the literature of death. Soon I realized that I could not get rid of my fear of the Reaper by going around it or avoiding it. No, I would have to confront it squarely and go right through it, into the eye of the storm.

Two books caught my fancy, one of which I will quote from. As I read the paragraphs, my fear became less and tunred into resignation. Although these books were a turn off to those who had given me the "advice", they fascinated me so that every once in a while I return to them. I recommend them to you all, especially to the seniors among you.

They are ZEN PHYSICS by David Darling, Harper Collins, and HOW WE DIE by Dr. Sherwin Nuland, Vintage Books

"Your death became a future fact at the moment a particular sperm cell from your father united with a particular ovum inside your mother. At that instant your personal hourglass was upturned and the sands of your life began to fall. Now no matter how hard you try to stay vigorous in body and mind, it will not affect the final outcome. No amount of progress to combat the effects of aging, through drugs, surgery, or other means, can do more than briefly postpone the inevitable. Your body is destined progressively to wear out and ultimately to fail. And then?

As soon as a person's heart stops beating, gravity takes hold. Within minutes a purple-red stain starts to appear on the lowermost pens of the body, where blood quickly settles. The skin and muscles sag, the body cools, and within two to six hours rigor mortis sets in. Beginning with a stiffening of the eyelids, the rigidity extends inexorably to all parts of the body and may last for between one and four days before the muscles finally relax.

Two or three days after death, a greenish discoloration of the skin on the right side of the lower abdomen above the cecum (the part of the large intestine nearest the surface) provides the first visible sign of decay. This gradually spreads over the whlole abdomen and then onto the chest and upper thighs, the color being simply a result of sulfur-containing gases from the intestines reacting with hemoglobin liberated from the blood in the vessels of the abdominal wall. By the end of the first week. most of the body is tinged green, a green that steadily darkens and changes to purple and finally to black. Blood-colored blisters, two to three inches across, develop on the skin, the merest touch being sufficient to cause their top layer to slide off.

By the end of the second week the abdomen is bloated. The lungs rupture because of bacterial attack in the air passages, and the resulting release of gas pressure from within the body forces a blood-stained fluid from the nose and mouth - a startling effect that helped to spawn many a vampire legend among peasants who had witnessed exhumations in medieval Europe. The eyes bulge and the tongue swells to fill the mouth and protrude beyond the teeth. After three to four weeks, the hair, nails, and teeth loosen, and the internal organs disintegrate before turning to liquid.

On average it takes ten to twelve years for an unembalmed adult body buried six feet in six feet deep in ordinary soil without a coffin to be completely reduced to a skeleton. This period may shrink drastically to between a few months and a year if the grave is shallow, since the body is then more accessible to maggots and worms. However soil, chemistry, humidity, and other ambient factors have a powerful effect on the rate of decomposition."

ZEN PHYSICS by David Darling, Harper Collins
From the Introduction

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