Americans must lose their fear of death

Last week when a Concorde went down in flames, millions of people huddled in front of the television to mourn the deaths of more than 100 innocent passengers. Everyone questioned how a tragedy like that could take place. Why did the carnage have to happen? What could have been done to prevent the agony? Why are people dead?
The same questions were asked when Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr. met their untimely deaths. Their demises were unfortunate and sad, but not any more so than the passing on of other humans. Remember Mother Theresa? She was infinitely more valuable to the world than a princess and an American stud, yet her death was quickly accepted and forgotten. Widespread fame and wealth do not make death more special or painful, but unfortunately, no one seems to understand that truth.
Perhaps my view comes from a firmer grip on reality. Death is natural and happens to everyone — just as life does. I hold little patience for those who can’t deal with losses, especially national or international ones that should only affect those directly related. The most any outsider can do is extend sympathy toward the family and friends who lost a loved one. After that, it’s simple — get over it.
I’ve had to deal with death quite extensively this year as I’ve had to come to terms with the passing of my brother, grandmother and a childhood friend. Times were tough, but I didn’t let my will to live be buried in pain. What’s the point of self-pity? I realized I have to go on living as fully as possible — if not for me, at least for them.
Maybe that’s why I’m so annoyed by people who are constantly worried about death. The other day, I was crossing the street with two co-workers. They were observing different cars and citing reasons why one is better than the other. Surprisingly, one of the top reasons behind a vehicle’s popularity was its safety. My two pals said they’d rather have a big car so that when they got into an accident, they wouldn’t get as squashed as they would driving a Geo.
I didn’t get their line of reasoning. Do they make other decisions based on the expectation of a head-on collision? If so, I’d hate to share that outlook on life. Accidents happen, and if you get hit by a semi, little to nothing is going to save you from harm. So why worry about it? I know I’m not going to be clutching my steering wheel, tight-fisted, searching for the Grim Reaper in five o’clock traffic, and neither should you.
Worrywarts might not venture to urban areas for fear of being raped or stabbed. Some might boycott planes and damn air travel altogether. People will always be wary of other asinine threats to life, whether it’s getting struck by lightning or not fitting into a bathing suit.
The ludicrousness of people’s infatuation with death has spurred some Internet geniuses to profit on society’s stupidity. At finalthoughts.com, you can compose e-mails for friends and loved ones, only to be sent after you kick the bucket. Why not wait until you’re dead to tell people how you feel right now?
Think of the possibilities. You could finally tell off your boss by saying, “Hi. I always hated you, I stole staplers from work, and I slept with your wife at the Christmas party. Ha!” Or, you could pull comedic pranks on your friends through an e-mail revealing, “I’m watching you right now. In fact, I can see you all the time. You know when the soap dropped in the shower today? That wasn’t an accident. And for the love of God, shave your back.”
At celestis.com, a grieving person can launch the cremated remains of a loved one into space for a mere $5,300. The capsule of ashes can orbit around the Earth or fly to the moon (that one is $7,000 extra.) This must be absolutely thrilling for the remains of an aspiring astronaut who never made his or her way to space. Just imagine, the ashes won’t even have to go through complicated NASA training. What an age we live in.
But if you’re going to live with obsessive thoughts and unsubstantiated fear of your own passing on, you’re better off staying home and leaving the outside world for those of us who can enjoy and deal with it. There’s no use in worrying about death, because it will only taint the zest for life.
Dying is simply a part of life, and the recent deaths of national and international figures only prove this point. Their demises are part of life, just not your life. Instead of spending energy complaining about their “unfair” deaths and how you’re personally scarred, try to make those living around you happy — including yourself.
Everyone needs a reminder to appreciate the here and now. If you’re lucky, someone special will send you a wake-up call from the grave.

Amy LaHaie’s column originally appeared in Tuesday’s Michigan State University paper, The State News.