By Katelyn Bryant
It’s a common theme: fear of death. Most of us are, on some level. We are living in a time, right now, where many of us are having to come face-to-face with the concept of dying. Among other things, this pandemic is forcing us to face our own truth about what we believe death means for us. A lot of us will continue the same way we always have, pushing uncomfortable ideas and feelings under the rug and ‘moving on’ when all this is over. But, others will sit with death, and we will allow it to change us. I refuse, in this life, to see good and ignore bad. I think the bad, failure, ordinary and irrational are more interesting stories. This past month, two books come to mind that have helped me question and reevaluate my beliefs, as well as understand other people’s perspectives while living and dying.
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
This book is written by a brilliant professor, Randy Pausch. When the book begins, we know the author already has a terminal diagnosis. He’s been given a prognosis of six months left of quality life. The book is written as a love letter to his three children, with an emphasis on childhood dreams and achieving those lifelong goals. Although everybody may not agree with every lesson he presents throughout the book, I think it’s more important to recognize Randy’s life for what it is: his perspective. His attitude throughout the book and stories he shares give you permission to review what dreams you had as a child, then reevaluate and remember which ones are still important to you. He inspires you to remember what you really want out of life then he gives you the inspiration and courage to chase those dreams once again. Sometimes you need to change your perspective to remember what is important to you. Randy reminds us that it’s not just death we’re afraid of, it’s facing death and also having the awareness that we did not radically, unapologetically live our lives.
Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr. Brian Wiess
CAUTION: This book is only for people who are open-minded, have developed critical thinking skills, and believe in magic.
Written by a psychiatrist named Brian Weiss, this book explores what happens after we die. The author is a psychotherapist who uses hypnosis to treat patients who deal with trauma that occurred during childhood. This is a story about a specific patient who came to see him regarding symptoms of anxiety, depression, and phobias. During these hypnosis sessions with this patient, Dr. Wiess cannot believe some of the things she starts describing about her past. Things that could not have happened during her current life. This begs the question: Is this patient recalling past lives?! This book is incredibly fascinating; with its limited scope, it sticks to the sessions Dr. Wiess has with this patient and does not delve into all the possible mysteries of reincarnation. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The two aspects the book does explore are the peacefulness of death for the soul and the reincarnation of souls in family groups. This book will challenge your beliefs and encourage you to explore how what you believe about death dictates decisions we make while we’re alive.
Honorable Mention: More books and stories about death and its influence on life…
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks written by Rebecca Skloot