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Are you Ready to Die?

Memento mori

Are you ready to die? I’m not, which means my philosophical training is not yet complete. I’m not a sage. As Seneca says:

I have always been “willing to live” in Seneca’s sense, meaning to do things in life that I found worthwhile and meaningful. From very early on, when I was in middle school, I resolved that I would become a scientist, because the human quest for knowledge and understanding seemed to me to be paramount. I was lucky enough to actually have a successful academic career as an evolutionary biologist, and it seemed like that was going to last me for a lifetime.

And yet, going back to Seneca, I still don’t know how to die. This thought came to the forefront of my consciousness a few days ago, when I attended the funeral of a friend’s mother. She was in her 90s, and had been suffering from a neural degenerative disease for a few years. And she had been in pain for much of that time. So death came as a release to both her and her close family and friends.

My friend’s mother was a teacher, and it was moving to see several of her students — including the officiant at the funeral — to pay tribute to the impact she had on their lives. By all accounts, she was also a loving mother and wife, so that her long life was what the ancients would call eudaimonic — worth living. In an important way, I’m hoping that my funeral will be something like hers: a moment of remembrance of the good she did in life, attended by people who knew her and cared for her. I’m working on it.

But what about this Stoic notion of being ready to die? One reason I know I’m not a sage is because I am not truly prepared…

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