When Death is Just Around the Corner

Tomb of Unknowns Changing of Guard
A changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington National Cemetery. For Armed Forces death is always “just around the corner”


During almost every month in this 55+ community where I live, one can often see the flashing red lights of an ambulance and fire truck. A fire truck accompanying the ambulance usually means personnel with medical training may be needed to assist with an emergency health issue. At times that can also mean someone has “passed away,” leaving relatives, friends, acquaintances to mourn and deal with their loss.

Dealing with death is no easy task. Most of us don’t prepare ourselves for the end of life. Even with spiritual or religious assurances about “going to a better place,” death has always been a touchy subject, sometimes due to fear, superstition, or discomfort at the prospect of mortality. It’s often a taboo subject in families, schools, and communities, and most Americans seldom express their attitudes and feelings about death—a kind of rejection or denial that life eventually ends for all of us.

While researching for my book Dealing with Death, I found people who were terrified at the prospect of dying. Nevertheless, death cannot be ignored, especially when it strikes close to home. Whether by accident, violence,  disease, or because of military armed conflict, the death of family members or friends can be heartbreaking for the living. If you have experienced the death of a family member, close friend, or colleague, you may feel not only grief but also helplessness, as if you cannot cope with death. It is common for many people to grieve deeply but try to hide their feelings and look for diversions. Some folks appear nonchalant while churning inside. Others may react with anger, question their faith, or withdraw from social activities.

Many of us also react emotionally to the deaths of strangers—people dying by suicide, murder, natural disasters, vehicle accidents. And most of us are horrified when we learn about mass murders of innocent people. This is just a short list of more than 100 mass shootings in the United States over the last few decades:

  • 12 people shot to death in a Aurora, CO movie theater;
  • 20 young children and 6 adults murdered in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT;
  • 49 people killed and 59 injured in an Orlando, Florida nightclub called the Pulse, a gay venue;
  • 50 people killed and at least 500 others injured at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip;
  • 14 people killed and 22 wounded in a shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, CA;
  •  26 worshipers massacred at a rural Texas church… .

To top it off, how about another tragic statistic: the United States has more mass murders than any other country in the world, or so law enforcement and news reporters tell us. Doesn’t that make you wonder what the hell is the matter with good ol’ USofA?



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