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Dying helps us appreciate life

It is timely and commendable for TODAY to draw attention to the last taboo in our nation (“As population ages, more are confronting the last taboo”; May 30).

Dying helps us appreciate life

Photo: Thinkstock

Patrick Kee Chin Wah

It is timely and commendable for TODAY to draw attention to the last taboo in our nation (“As population ages, more are confronting the last taboo”; May 30).

The fear of death blinds many of us to many opportunities to find love, joy and peace in the face of suffering. The dying teach us to live more fully by helping us overcome the fear of death and dying.

Many young people have the misconception that they must keep the bad news of a terminal illness from the elderly, fearful that the latter would give up living when they are told they have an incurable disease.

However, many of the elderly are more concerned about burdening their loved ones than about dying.

The real issue is not about telling them their condition but giving them opportunities to ventilate their emotional distress and listening to them.

Talking about such issues during a medical crisis is difficult.

Hence, it is important that families share their feelings about artificial life-sustaining measures and other treatments whenever opportunities, such as the TODAY article, present themselves.

We tend to see death as an enemy. The best way to deal with our enemies is not to hate and fight them but to understand and love them.

We must learn to befriend death, which is not to court death in extreme sports or seek death through suicide or euthanasia, but to recognise that to die is human.

It is not to surrender to death as an inevitable fate, but to recognise that we are not soulless bodies or disembodied spirits. We have both a body and a soul.

Often, it is through suffering and dying that many discover the true meaning of their lives. We can choose not to let materialism blind us to the spiritual dimension of life.

Finally, when we turn dying into a medical problem, we become inhuman. Modern technology can delay death and cause much unnecessary suffering in the guise of prolonging life.

An old man dying from renal failure, who was forced to have kidney dialysis, wrote: Death is not the enemy, doctor; inhumanity is.

We need not obsess about death and dying. But when we learn to number our days, we will gain the wisdom to live a full, healthy life.

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