When a classmate’s father was dying from cancer a few years after our high school graduation, the family was very upset, but shortly before his passing, he unexpectedly assured everyone, “It’s going to be all right.” Death, he came to understand, is a natural part of life, not some random, undeserved catastrophe.
I have heard similar stories from others.
Kali, the Hindu goddess of death, is frightful. Her long tongue dangles from between bloody fangs. She wears a necklace of human skulls and a skirt of dismembered arms. But she is only horrific from a distance—up close, she is our beautiful, comforting mother. (See posting of 8/28/2007.)
Arabs have a similar saying. As the Angel of Death approaches, he is terrifying, but when he arrives, he is bliss. (See posting of 5/23/2011.)
An African gazelle flees in panic from a pursuing lion, but once he is dragged down, accepts the inevitable and quietly awaits the fatal bite.
The sense of peace associated with imminent death is universal. One explanation is that true bliss comes when we lose our sense of self. This comes to us in glimpses when we are overcome by the beauty of nature or experience the joy of a loved one. Anything that takes us away from ourselves works. The Hindu nirvana maintains this blissful state by long training of suppressing the ego. And what is death, but the ultimate loss of self? Those who survive a near death experience often describe the feeling of blissful peace, a feeling they reluctantly leave as they return to life, a feeling we can all look forward to, and where we can find comfort as a loved one lies dying. The source of the feeling is unimportant, just that it is there, available to all, a gift of being human, and independent of religious beliefs.