I saw this on Quora….what really matters when you’re about to die?

Homepage Forums Small Talk I saw this on Quora….what really matters when you’re about to die?

This topic contains 13 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Simon Paynton 7 months ago.

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    Belle Rose

    Quoted/copy pasted directly here:

    What do you all think?

    What actually matters at the end of life?
    My aunt died two weeks ago, 2 days before her death me and my brother visited her in the hospital. We were only allowed 2 minutes with her. She was very sick. I can vividly remember walking up to her bed, knowing that those might be the last couple of minutes I will get to spend with her. When we reached her, she was asleep. We gently woke her up. There was a tube going down her throat as she wasn’t able to breathe without it. We knew she wouldn’t be able to talk, still we gently woke her up.

    I couldn’t say anything, I just stared at her thinking this might be the last time that I will ever see her. Suddenly, I heard my brother saying: “Hello aunt, you should know that we love you so much. You’re our favorite aunt. We always remember you being there for us and we remember how well you treated us. We think very highly of you. We love you. ”

    Although my aunt couldn’t talk, her face lit up. Her eyes started tearing up. It seemed that she really appreciated what my brother told her.

    So it seems that for people who are still alive, what matters is the how they remember you. Were you a good person to them? Did you show them that you loved them? My brother only had 120 seconds with her and he never mentioned how successful she was or how much money she had. It was all about the connection that she had with us.

    Well what about her? Well, I was pretty sure when I saw her face lit up that she really appreciated what he said. It’s as if she felt somehow that all her interactions with us throughout her life were summarized in what my brother said.

    But, two weeks later? What matters now? I can tell you again, from our side, what matters is not how successful she was or how much money she had. My answer will still remain the same, what matters is how we remember her and the connection that we had.

    But, what about her? What matters now? Well… that depends. Where is she? Is there an afterlife? Or she just seized to exist? Well if it’s the latter then it doesn’t matter much. But, if it’s the former then it will depend on what will happen after we die. Nothing can answer this question except for religion. If we really care about ourselves and we have any kind of logic we have to spend a lot of time exploring every religion. We should read the Torah, the Bible and the Quran. Each and every book there is about religion. And I’m not talking about this from a religious perspective as much as from a logical perspective.

    If we’re gonna spend eternity in a place that we’re not sure what it is. And we only have some years to prepare for it. I believe it’s logical to spend much of this time preparing for the longer period.

    To summarize, in the last moments of our lives, what’s gonna matter is how people will remember us. But, after we die, what’s gonna matter is what kind of afterlife there is and if we prepared for it or not. So we should really work on getting closer go people and showing them that we love them. And if we really care about ourselves we should study religions more to answer the question that we will never know the answer of, except after we die and experience it ourselves, what will happen to us after we die?



    Belle, that was really Johny on the spot of her brother.

    I reject your premise. Once a person has studied history, anthropology and religion there is zero reason to investigate religion as a potential source of knowledge about a possible after-life. I don’t see any rational reason to suppose that consciousness goes on long after the lights go down. And damn sure religion has zero answers other than unfounded fiction and a great deal of shared mythology. Religion is shit. Pure and simple. Unadulterated drech.

    There is no rational basis for religion. Were it rational it would never require faith. Instead faith would never be accepted.



    After my father was diagnosed with cancer, we talked about what happens after death. It was strange, perhaps, we hadn’t talked about it before as the two of us would often have long, meandering conversations covering just about everything under the sun. My father told me he believed in something beyond death, though what it was, he couldn’t say. Certainly not Heaven or Hell. I certainly didn’t begrudge him that belief.

    My father had also expressed a desire to be cremated after death. It became a point of contention with his mother and older sister. I think both believed one had to be buried ‘traditionally’ for the resurrection or something to that effect. I never knew my grandmother well for complicated reasons, but she was a kind woman by all accounts. Even so, one night when nearly the whole family was gathered, my dad snapped at her slightly that she needed to stop pestering him about this. It’s not that he didn’t understand her fears. My dad was a very empathetic man who would often set his feelings aside for others. But having a cancer with a very low one-year survival rate, he was spending so much energy taking care of others’ feelings around his illness that he was barely afforded the chance to feel his own feelings. Being guilted by his mother, well-intentioned or not, was pushing him to the edge.

    Eventually my father’s older brother—a minister—put her mind to ease on the matter in accordance with her faith. I don’t recall how, but he assured her that cremation was not an issue. While I didn’t lack empathy for her—she’d already outlived one son and now was likely to outlive another which is a pain I can’t fully grasp not having kids of my own—, her fear also wasn’t something I could fully relate to. It required faith that the universe operated in a very particular way with concerns to life. The odds of her understanding of the afterlife being correct were something like one in infinity (if we could express them as a probability at all). Once you open up the possibility of a supernatural entity on par the Christian god, you’ve set up a scenario where everything we know, everything we use to measure reality and make predictions, fails. That god is utterly unpredictable from a human perspective. Everything we think we know about the afterlife could be a lie, a test, a farce, a misunderstanding, an infinite number of things because the god/ entity at the helm is limitless and operating outside all natural order as we know it.

    So honestly, there is nothing to prepare for even in the paradigm where we entertain the idea of an afterlife*. Conviction is all we have when it comes to what happens after death. Live to the best of your ability. Be kind to yourself. Try to foster some good in the world. Hope for the best or hope for the void. There really is no meaningful probability we can generate for a success in the afterlife.

    *Personally, I don’t. Evidence for the afterlife to date seems to stem from human imagination rather than any material evidence. If I am wrong, I’m wrong, but that hardly matters. My odds are no worse than anyone else’s come curtain call.


    @Belle Rose This is on Nov. 2nd over Zoom. It might be useful to you.

    2022 Secular Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos Secular.

    Meeting Registration info.



    I happened to have included a post in today’s Sunday School….not yet published, on the topic.

    The Craft of Dying.



    Belle Rose

    Thank you for both Reg!!! Now I want to read that book. The first thing I thought was I need to tell my friend from college about this book because she works in the hospice industry as a social worker. I wonder if she has already read it…




    I don’t know why studying religions about dying would do anything but confuse you because they all have different criteria and afterlife propositions. Either one is correct, and the rest are wrong, or they are all bullshit, which has to be the truth unless god is a complete bumbling idiot who botched most of our chances to gain “his salvation”, LOL.

    It’s always the simplest of people who claim they know everything.


    Death is the end of life. At that point we cease to exist. We are related to all other life on Earth and there is no reason to think that what happens to us is any different to what happens to an elephant, a bug or even a parrot.

    The only reason to believe otherwise is magical thinking. We have a fear of the unknown. Religions make unsupported claims about about what happens when we die and offer the promise of immortality in some special theme park. That’s just rubbish. Once we breakaway from such prideful ideas about our own self-importance we can appreciate life even more. And that allows us to better appreciate and respect the lives of others too. The further away from antiquated religious beliefs and superstitions we get the better off our species will be.


    Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

    Success in Circuit lies

    Too bright for our infirm Delight

    The Truth’s superb surprise

    As Lightning to the Children eased

    With explanation kind

    The Truth must dazzle gradually

    Or every man be blind —



    My views on life after death beliefs, if I can put them in a nutshell:

    Some other animals mourn their dead, as if they can’t believe they’re actually dead, and they keep searching for their lost companion. Most humans, too. There is a natural disbelief in the actual loss. I claim that this is also evidence of “spirituality”, but as I’ve mentioned times before, my definition is different from standard usage. Because the feeling exists, even if current standard usage strongly implies that there’s duality in mind reality. I believe strongly that there is no duality of mind in reality, but it’s still wrong to deny or ignore the natural feeling of it. The feeling is shared among us, regardless of our belief or non-belief in duality, so imo, discussion of the feeling is at least a starting point in the discussion across the different beliefs in duality. It’s then up to the believers in duality to make their case to me, if they insist.

    So I’m also ok with saying that “the spirit” of someone can exist within me, even after that person’s death. While after I die, that spirit in me dies, too, and while “my spirit” can live on in other minds. And metaphorically, spirit can also live on in books, or other media. There is no mystery here, just facts, and it’s ok for feelings to matter.

    YMMV, and that’s ok. Deal with it in your own way, as long as you don’t force the view on others. I just hope someday that my definition can be added first in usage, then to dictionaries. While I’m all ears if someone can tell me one word for “the feeling of spirituality”. Perhaps in a different language?

    • This reply was modified 7 months ago by  PopeBeanie.

    While I’m all ears if someone can tell me one word for “the feeling of spirituality”.

    It is what makes us human. It is our ‘Humanity’.



    I know we’ve discussed it already but i am not a lover of the word, spiritual. It is just too amorphous. Effective communication typically requires avoidance of the word. Although there may be places where it resonates. This comes to mind. Ya jump into a hole in the ice and come out and roll around in the snow. Afterwards ya can say ya had a SPIRITUAL experience.



    Ya jump into a hole in the ice and come out and roll around in the snow. Afterwards ya can say ya had a SPIRITUAL experience.

    LOL, or a Near Death Experience. I still can’t deny that a human can feel connection with that, even if amorphous; even if their context is religious.

    One of the clearest, personal examples I can think of is when I actually get goosebumps from some gospel music. Or from Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. (Spoiler: It’s not because of any connection with God, for me.)



    Pope, i think we tend to describe experiences as spiritual when our sense impressions are heightened. So religious folks may FEEL rapturous while dancing or talking in tongues or genuflecting before god and baby jesus. Or outdoorsy people may FEEL an appreciation and sense of awe standing on a precipice looking out onto a panorama. Or maybe gazing at stars on a crystal clear night. I know i have had that hiking and camping on top of a mountain coming out of the tent at 3 am and being utterly humbled and appreciative of nature. Yeah, music lovers may cry at a concert by Bucelli and come away describing it as spiritual. And part of that FEELING causes us to reflect and perhaps acknowledge our ignorance. Our post-heightened sense impressions reflections will tend to mimic our understanding or things or our world view. So spiritual is widely varied in its application and in its subjective nature. But i guess it is more universal in its expression as a search for meaning.


    Simon Paynton

    But, after we die, what’s gonna matter is what kind of afterlife there is and if we prepared for it or not.

    I don’t rule it out.  On that basis, you might be right.  In that case, I think we might spend a very long time contemplating all the things we did wrong and are now unable to fix or redeem in any way.  That would result in relative heaven for some people, and hell for others, if they have a conscience, in degrees, without having to make a binary choice between heaven and hell.

    I have heard an end-of-life nurse on the BBC talking about how at the end of their life, many people agonise over seemingly little things they consider they have done wrong in their lives.

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