Most of us fear death, and rightly so. Our instinct is to live and to continue living and to defend ourselves from harm and death. That’s healthy. Yet to be obsessed with the specter of death or to be in denial about one’s own death is unhealthy, neurotic, and needs to be rectified for sanity’s sake.
Putting the prospect of one’s own death into a proper perspective is one of life’s great challenges. Only by directly acknowledging and confronting our mortality can we be moved to make wise decisions respecting the opportunities we may have for living fully and living well and for not meeting death with regret.
One of the great clichés of philosophy is Socrates’ declaration: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” If that is true, then we know what human life is for and what makes it worthwhile and gratifying: our wide and deep examination of our unique capacities as human beings.
Therefore, the deepest fear we may feel as human beings is to discover, when we come to die, that we have not lived, not lived as fully as we might have done (to paraphrase Thoreau in Walden).
A good death rewards a good life.