Final Words

I found this a fascinating article made perhaps more interesting being published close to the start of a new year, a time many people probably don’t associate with death but rather ideas about the future.  It’s a fascinating topic to me – what people say when close to death.  Although I’m frequently around people close to death, I don’t spend the long periods of time at their bedside necessary in order to garner a feel for the things they tend to say.

I was surprised that the reference to the only real extant study of what people say before death is available to read free online, and it’s very short – not a book but a rather short article published in 1921 in the American Journal of Psychology.  One of the interesting observations (assertions?) in this article is that The general consensus of opinion based upon the experience of all ages is that the dreadfulness of death and its physical pain are for the most part in the imagination (p.553).  In other words, dying is easier than we think it is.  And also this quote – In a way, the conduct and last words of those facing death are a mental and moral test of their real character (p.553). The data this article is built around is somewhat more perfunctory and less descriptive than I would have liked, but to each his own!

The Atlantic author enjoys the book he’s reviewing, but his bias shows through, whether it’s his ready attribution of the author’s father’s comments about angels and other unseen personas as hallucination (although to be fair, this might be how the author herself describes it), as well as a slight disdain that the author is interested in the afterlife.  Regardless, based on this review I hope to read Lisa Smartt’s book as well, though it may be a while before I can get to it and review it firsthand!


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