Death is nothing to us; for that which has been dissolved into it's elements experiences no sensations, and that which has no sensation is nothing to us."
- Epicurus (341–270 EAA)
According to Greek philosopher Epicurus the fear death is quite unnecessary. In death, a human just returns to the state where he or she was before birth. The real enemy is the fear of death and not death itself, which is a necessary and important part of the cycle of life.
The easiest way to diminish fear is not to think too much of the things that do cause fear, especially in cases when thinking about it cannot change it in any way. This is of course a much, much easier thing to say than to implement.
However, this old truth is still quite valid when one deals with phenomena that you cannot change by your own actions at all. The Epicureans did think that the best remedy for fear of death was to live a good, full and meaningful life.
A sad fact of life is that many religions see as one of their primary tasks the keeping of the fear of death alive. In fact, the fear of death always had a very central position in many religion's whole marketing strategy.
Considering this it is no surprise that every single Christian church and shrine does contain an image of an instrument for delivering one of the cruelest deaths imaginable.
Building up a fear of death and then offering a religious remedy for it has always been a very central mission of the Christian churches.
The quote by Epicurus in the beginning of this piece is for those who miss a dead friend or a relative. It is about the relationship between a person and the idea of his or her of death only.
However, also the feeling of personal loss can be even greatly alleviated by understanding how death is a necessary and important part of all life and not, for example, a punishment for any 'sins' that a person would have committed.
The Epicurean idea of accepting the naturalness of the idea of death means also that the emotions of loss and sorrow are just as natural as death itself is. One should always also remember that no person disappears completely at the moment of his or her death, but his or her memory will live on in the minds of people who did know a person or his or her work.
This memory of a person can live for a very long time. It's form and duration is naturally decided by the type of life that a person has lived. A good person will just be remembered more fondly and more often. Of course, also the work that a person does produce during his or her lifetime can live on for a very long time.
I did originally write this piece on the night of the day when I did receive the sad message of the quite unexpected passing away of a great humanist and a fellow freethinker Tapani Hietaniemi as a victim of an extremely sudden bout of illness.
He was a humanist of the old school, who's knowledge knew no bounds, but most of all whose sense of humor was something nobody who met him will never forget. http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapani_Hietaniemi
"It is not death or pain that is to be dreaded, but the fear of pain or death."
- Epictetus (AD 55 – AD 135)
(This piece was completely refurbished on 19th of February, 2013)