The Truth About Death

by Emily LAWTON

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

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