In a letter written back in 1789, Benjamin Franklin said that ‘in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.’  It is true that some may be able to avoid the taxman for a while, but eventually he will catch up with you.  When it comes to the grim reaper, his average of catching up is pretty good too.  Statistically it’s been said that one out of one dies.  That’s a pretty solid ratio for death.  Globally speaking, there are over 56 million who people die annually.  That means that there are approximately 6000 deaths per hour, over 100 per minute and almost 2 every second!  I guess Benjamin Franklin was correct after all.  Death will come for us all.

As a fact of life, death is univeral and undeniable.  It does not care what your age, culture, ideology or belief system is.  It does not consider your economic status or social standing.  It has no regard for our emotions, religious views, individual personality or opinions.  The truth is that every single human being is eventually going to die.  However, for this blogging series, death itself is not so much the main subject area so much as what lies beyond it.

My recent journey into the funeral services industry has obviously opened my eyes to the many complexities that surround death.  Death is indeed a profound and complex subject with many factors shaping ones attitude towards it.  From religious to individual temperment and personalities, there are a wide range of human reactions and emotions to death and loss.  Grief alone is a journey in and of itself.  But is it possible that our reactions to death are somehow based upon our attitudes towards death?

For most people, attitudes towards death are affected at least in part by some religious lens or spiritual view.  But in general terms, most people probably fit into three main positions on the nature of death and what lies beyond it. 


According to a 2011 Global Poll, some 26% of people surveyed attempt to plead ignorance and remain unsure about what happens after death.  Agnostics are partially correct here in the sense that nobody really knows about death until after they are dead.  But agnostics generally just plead ignorance on the issue and it seems that a quarter of the population find comfort and hope in not really knowing or believing in anything


For others, like Stephen Hawking, death is simply the permanent cessation of all vital functions.  Hawking likens death to the shutting down of a computer.  He once said that ‘I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail.  There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.’  For sceptics, death is essentially the inevitable end of the biological process of what we call life.  As such, death permanently ends our existence.  When we die, other than fond memories and our decomposing remains, there really is nothing left of us at all.


However, for the majority of us, death is not nearly as bleak as what the sceptics say.  Rather than being the end of our existence, death is something that can be instantly or ultimately survivable.  Apprantly many believe that there is some sort of ongoing existence beyond death.  Of course the narratives about what this looks like are many and the understanding of what takes place after death varies greatly, but it seems that most people believe in some sort of life after death.  

So what about you?  What is going to happen to you after death?  Ever thought about it?

Well, perhaps this blogging series will provoke a discussion or two with the living amongst us.  That’s the point.  It’s seems that our culture is almost fearful to even say the very word at times.  We even try and use nice phrases and other terminology to communicate that a death has occured.  But according to statistics, over half of the human population believes that there is some sort of afterlife for their loved one and even the possibility of communicating with the dearly departed.  So I guess that majority of us do breathe while driving past cemeteries after all.

In my next blog I will take a look at death and the afterlife from an ancient and contemperary perspective.  In other words, we will travel back to Egypt and it’s ancient Near East culture and then fast forward to see some of concepts that have been popularized by Hollywood today.  

Until then.


4 thoughts on “What happens when I die?: A blogging series about death and the afterlife

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