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Bill WhiteBill White
A blog about mental and emotional health

Pondering Mortality: The Inevitable

Bill White Updated: Oct 13th 2010

Do you ever think about your mortality? It's been on my mind more and more, having hit my 50s. And it's forward in my thinking just

woman meditating outsideHe's 86-years-old and he's always been in good health. But he became ill last night, and we took him to the E.R.

I'm writing this piece as I sit in my father's hospital room. Looks like he'll be here for several days for testing and treatment.

We all know the drill with parents, right? Even when they aren't feeling their best, we don't consider the possibility they won't be around. Indeed, most of us look upon our parents as the forever rocks of our lives.

How sobering to see my father in the E.R., feeling so horrible he didn't care how he looked. There he was, appearing so defeated in his skimpy hospital gown; revealing more of his 86 years than I'd like to have seen.

And so, my pondering mortality.

You know, I've always had great respect - envy, actually - for those who don't sweat the inevitable. Simply, they're comfortable with death.

Think about how freeing that would be - living life in the moment, never worrying about what's sure to come.

Would I seem ghoulish if I told you I've always had a fascination with death? So many times, working psych in the E.R., I'd talk with physicians and nurses after seeing a patient wheeled to the morgue.

I wanted to know every detail. Actually, I'd like to have been there as the passing occurred; and to have talked with the person just before.

But it can't be just me. I remember a M.A.S.H. episode featuring a war-worn and depressed Major Charles Emerson Winchester III. His curiosity, and longing for his own answers, led to a moving encounter with a dying soldier.

After asking Winchester to hold his hand, the soldier whispered, "I'm dying." Winchester follows with, "Can you see anything? Can you feel anything? I have to know."

The soldier provided an amazing answer, though it wasn't what Major Winchester was looking for. He said, "I smell bread."

What a powerful scene!

So back to the original question - do you ever think about your mortality?

Are you at peace with the inevitable? At least curious?

But maybe the more relevant and growth-enhancing questions are...

How has your perception of your mortality impacted your mood and anxiety pathology over the years?

How would an adjustment or two positively impact your life?

I have no doubt my father will be released from the hospital in several days. And I truly believe he'll be with us for quite some time.

As much as I hate seeing him suffer, I thank him for being the fountain of yet another lesson learned.

No matter our perceptions and reactions, mortality is reality. Life is death.

It's simply the natural order of things. And in that there's great peace.


Bill White

After enduring decades of anxiety, depression, and alcoholism; Bill made it out of the woods. He found his life’s passion along the way, earned his counseling credentials, and is ready to lend a hand. Visit his blog at, and you can contact Bill at

Reader Comments
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pondering mortality - marcs - Dec 21st 2010

I am a 48 yr old cauc. male.. I am a liberitarian, and a "free thinker" No religion please !! I consider death as another beginning, life after death if you will....I was an EMT for 13 1/2 years..I started when I was 17 yrs. old, in a volunteer organisation. The dept. I belonged to ran over a thousand calls per year, so don't stereotype the word "volunteer"...Death and dying were an every day occurance..It never bothered me..As a matter of fact, my mother was an RN at one of the local hospitals, and she always asked my if any of the "calls" bothered me..They never did..Not even the Sids calls, or calls with children involved....Some of my family thought I was a cold and callus person, as well as all my comrads who were out there every day saving some ungrateful person's, death, is it painful, don't really know...The few times I actually witnessed someone die in my presence, things were real quick, and the crew was expecting it, so we immediately started life-saving protocall...I look at things this way; we are just animals like any other animal..except we have the ability to solve problems, and reason...Well some of us do..The only thing about my upcomming death that bothers me is that I will leave behind some "loose ends" for my son, or wife to clean up, or not provide for them good enough....I live life like someone's going to pull the plug tomorrow..I try to stay spontaneous, and I never take everything in life so seriously....People are so uptight about everything...Relax, enjoy life because NO ONE is getting out alive !

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