Johnny America


The Truth About Death


Dear Lucy,

Thank you for your let­ter ask­ing what death is like. Though I am new­ly dead (two years) I be­lieve I’m as qual­i­fied as any­one to an­swer your ques­tion as I have giv­en the mat­ter a lot of thought.

The truth about death is it’s not re­al­ly so bad. It is not painful and does not cause stress. Even the mo­ment of dy­ing, if you ap­proach it with a sci­en­tif­ic cu­rios­i­ty, can be en­joy­able. Dy­ing is like be­ing heat­ed up from the in­side, very quickly.

Be­ing dead, well… per­haps you can un­der­stand this:

Think of a mo­ment when you’ve re­ceived some very bad news. Maybe some­one has died. Maybe you liked/loved that per­son quite a lot, and the news has been de­liv­ered to you but it’s a sur­prise. Even if you an­tic­i­pat­ed the death, it’s a sur­prise be­cause it hap­pens fast (as when some­one turns off a light while you’re in the room, and you don’t see them). And you may ini­tial­ly feel a bit of some­thing but al­so you are de­tached. You have some time to re­flect and con­sid­er; the things in­side your brain seem to have some im­por­tance they did­n’t pre­vi­ous­ly pos­sess. Some peo­ple might de­scribe this feel­ing as “sur­re­al” but I don’t think that’s pre­cise­ly right. Even­tu­al­ly (soon, in most cas­es) that feel­ing pass­es and then you can get on with the busi­ness of be­ing sad.

If that feel­ing nev­er passed, that’s what be­ing dead is like.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have oth­er questions.

Best Wish­es,

Mary He­len Shapiro, 1932 – 2002

Filed under Letters on August 12th, 2004

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Reader Comments

Jay Holley wrote:

I liked this a lot.

Wilson Miner wrote:

see? i told you it was good.

Catalyst4Christ wrote:

If you can’t see so­ci­ety falling-down all around you, I guess I’ll have to re­mind you: The re­al­i­ty of Heav­en or Hell is self-ev­i­dent to those who can see. God bless.

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