Is there a good death?

In light of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s demise, a question came to mind: is one sort of death better than another? Is there really a good way to die? Religiously, various sects may claim there is; each pointing to their chosen path as the only way to heaven. Medicinally, there may be an easier way of passing on; the one with the least pain. Morally, there may be ways of surrendering life for a higher cause, such as saving the lives of others. Yet, is there really a good death? Is succumbing to heroin addiction less noble than being, for example, crucified?

The answer may be: it depends. Are we taking the perspective of the soon-to-be-corpse, or of the remaining relatives, including family, friends and the media? I am under the opinion that once you are dead, you are dead, and thus it matters very little how you die. Possibly, if it was up to me, I would select an easy death, being that I am not a big fan of pain…

Wayne-Alamo1This reminds me of a 1978 animated short film by Derek Lamb and Janet Perlman, titled “Why Me.” It tells the story of one, Mr. Nesbit Spoon who, during a somewhat routine visit to the doctor, is being told he has only five minutes left to live. I am enclosing a link to the film below. It’s a favorite of mine. There is a moment in the film when Mr. Spoon evokes a better way he would have preferred to die: John Wayne’s death in the film ‘The Alamo’, “Boy,” he announces, “what a way to go…”

As for myself, I recently mentioned to an acquaintance of mine my fondness of solo scuba-diving; a big no-no in the underwater world. Yes, it’s not as safe as diving with a buddy, but I managed to go solo numerous times in the past, taking various precautions and keeping my dives fairly shallow. I much enjoy being alone, just me and the large ocean. “And if I do kick the bucket,” I told my friend, “I rather it happens while I am doing something I love.”
So I guess there is a good death, one that commemorates your passion. Thus I would have much preferred learning that Hoffman died while shooting a film, than with a needle still stuck in his arm. Which reminds me of the joke about the Jewish mom warning her son to wear a clean underwear in case he is caught up dying in an accident…

Learned from: Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death

Click here to watch Why Me

About Ronen

Ronen Divon had been walking spiritual and holistic paths for well over thirty years. Born in Israel, educated in New York, and currently residing in North Carolina, Ronen had traveled the world, spending time with teachers, masters, healers and guides. With wisdom that spans multiple traditions, including the Far East, India, Israel, Brazil, Peru, and Native America, Ronen remains a student, learning and adding modalities that will best serve his clients, each according to their own unique needs. Ronen is also a published author, a Yoga, Meditation, and Tai Chi instructor.
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2 Responses to Is there a good death?

  1. Some thoughts stirred from your topic – Yes, I stray from it but at the end, I address it!
    The ultimate consolation for the suffering masses is that God loves us and that we will reunite with our maker and find bliss in the afterlife. Yet when death is imminent, that joy in most cases turns into incredible fear and sadness. Is being with God that scary? Most will say that the overwhelming sadness comes from thinking about those we leave behind. Of course we want our dearly departed to bask in the beauty that those who believe in an afterlife envision, yet our hearts are heavy because the hole left from every lost loved one can never be filled. While some minimize this existence on the physical plane as not as “important” as the afterlife, just remember that the very same omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent deity who we will meet in the afterlife gave us this physical existence so how could perfection create something less than perfect? So the physical world must be revered as well.
    Let’s move on….
    Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death is tragic in that he was an incredibly talented actor who could have added so much more to his professional body of work. A movie star – in our celebrity crazed society – has everything. And yet if we look at all of our brothers and sisters who “have everything”, we see a tapestry of drug and alcohol abuse, rehab clinics, and many who pass away “before their time”. Is having “everything” not so wonderful? What does having “everything” mean?
    Was Hoffman addicted before becoming a star? Did his addiction increase exponentially after becoming a star? Was the drug use for the high? For the escape from pain? Escape from “I have everything but I’m still not happy?” What was the core reason that needle went into his arm over and over again?
    I remember when we lost Princess Diana. Yes, she had morphed into a royal through marriage and was much loved by so many. And yet so unhappy. And when the news came that she had been killed in a car crash, my first thought wasn’t “Oh, we lost a royal” or even “Oh, we lost a wonderful humanitarian”. My first thought was those poor boys – William and Harry. When I say “poor boys”, let me qualify. It’s not that after the loss of their mother the princes financially wanted for anything as do the hundreds of thousands of children who find find themselves improverished, on the street or trafficked after the loss of a parent.
    Princess Diana was, before all else, a mother. She adored those boys. They were close beyond belief. That’s what hit home. William and Harry had to grow up without their mother. Hoffman’s children will have to grow up without their father.
    Yet, while thousands of children all over the world grieve, only a few stories make headlines. Police have already made arrests in connection with the drug dealers who allegedly sold Hoffman the heroin that brought about his death. Is so much vigilance given to locate every drug dealer that dispenses the substances that kill the nameless and faceless?
    Are Diana and Phillip enjoying incredible bliss? Does anybody know?
    I used to dream of being an actress, of hearing the applause, of living an exciting artistic life. Then the reality of wanting a child and being able to support that child changed this bohemian east village chick into a legal techie living in the northern suburbs. While the thought of this change in lifestyle would have made my skin crawl years back, it really is okay. I’ve changed…what’s important to me has changed…
    I do believe there’s an afterlife… a natural continuation of the love, energy and discovery experienced this time around. And who do I want to see most on the other side? My dance teacher and my dog.
    My dance teacher – the man who made me feel unconditional love for an amazingly talented alcoholic who became my dearest most beloved friend before I lost him to AIDS…
    And my dog – a 200 pound beast – so regal, so massive and frightening to strangers, yet so tender and loving…who reconfirmed my deep-seated belief that just because we can overpower the four-leggeds with our various tools of death doesn’t mean we should.
    Like everybody else before me, I too will pass. But, I plan on coming back! I worked way too hard getting my proverbial shit together this lifetime to say I’m done. There’s a tremendous joy in growing and then there’s the joy of holding your hand out to another human being and saying, “hey, let me help you”.
    To many faiths around the world, humanity is all one. My joy comes from the idea of getting as many of us back on the path back to source, one troubled soul at a time…Me? I’m definitely going out fighting! And coming back. And fighting some more. And loving it!!!
    How I die? Sure, let me go with a smile on my face…a knowing smile…cause I’m coming back! I have to come back. I can’t possibly get into all the trouble I want to in just one lifetime!

    • Ronen says:

      Carol, thanks for the thoughtful post. I wanted to touch upon a couple of points in it.
      1. I believe that we are afraid of death as even those of us who believe in either an afterlife or reincarnation, are not one hundred percent certain of it. If there was complete and absolute hard-proof of continued existence past this life, I trust that the fear of perishment would have greatly diminish.
      2. Drug addiction, and actually many more addictions, are now understood to be not only a form of illness but rather a weakness in a certain area of the brain; something one is born with. It is somewhat like, and my gay and lesbian friends please excuse the comparison, the uneducated conservative belief that one can “cure” homosexuality. Thus, those of us who were born with a tendency towards addiction are more likely to fall victim to it whether they are successful in life or not. There are, of course, many other factors, but this may help explain why even people who seem to have it all, still succumb to addictions.

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