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The Fear of Dying

The Fear of Dying
By J.L. Robb

In 1973 a book was authored and then published by Erica Jong, Fear of Flying and the attempts of a woman to handle her fears. It was a best seller, and apparently many suffer the same phobia.

Fear is a strange thing but often makes us stronger, and it is often mental.

A few years ago I was driving over a bridge in the Florida Keys, and suddenly my palms started sweating and my grip on the steering wheel tightened. My heart started palpitating, and this bridge was only about a centimeter above the water. A phobia had come out of nowhere. Knowing it was only mental, I overcame that fear after a while by making myself drive Spaghetti Junction in Atlanta, over and over and over. Even today though, driving over a high bridge makes me a little nervous.

What about the fear of dying?

The #1 prayer among people who pray is that God will just let them, when their time comes, go to sleep and not wake up. No pain; no suffering. I have prayed that prayer myself, more than once. After watching my Mom and Dad die from cancer, I decided that was not for me.

Do you think Jesus feared dying?

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. ~ Luke 22:39-44 NIV

And His sweat was like drops of blood. That sounds pretty worried. In some translations, this cup is described as a cup of poison… death. So was Jesus concerned about death, or was He concerned about what it would take to get there?

In Matthew 17, Salome, the mother of James and John brought her two sons and cornered Jesus for a favor, something most loving mothers would do. She asked Jesus if, in heaven, James and John could sit at His right and left hands. This of course would indicate that James and John were Jesus’ most favorite apostles. Before He told her “no, it’s not my decision” He asked this question in Matthew 20:22 NIV:

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered.

And they did. Most biblical scholars agree that James was the first Apostle murdered because he was a Jew for Jesus. Of course, all the early Christians were Jewish.

Should we, as Christians, fear death; and if not, why do we? There are plenty of reasons.

Fear of the unknown, fear of leaving the kids and grandkids and what it will do to them, fear of leaving a spouse and fear of what it takes to get there.

Recently I have been doing a lot of soul searching about this subject and the ramifications. I think, based at least on my own history, we do not think much about these things until they become relevant at the moment. That happened to me, so I thought I would tell you the story.

I have always been short! No matter how much as a kid I would hang from the door sill to get taller, only thing happened is my arms got longer. However, I have always been very healthy, not over weight, no diabetes and only an elevated blood pressure.

Last November I was planting an azalea, and suddenly I could barely breathe. After a few seconds, I collapsed on the ground and truly had the fear of dying for the first time in 68 years. I could barely breathe, could not call 911 and worried about my daughter coming over and finding me splayed out on the ground. Though the spell lasted only 30-40 seconds, I truly thought I was dying; and then it was over.

The only effect I noticed after that was a slight difficulty in breathing that has now lasted 7 months. I went to my doctor and a series of tests commenced: nuclear stress test, heart scan, pulmonary exams, lots of IVs, and drugs. A small blockage was found. Then my cardiologist (never had a cardiologist until this point, and she’s a really nice gal) and regular doctor said I had suffered a “mild heart attack” at some point. They said it happens all the time, and the victim does not know.

I had no pain, no numbness, nausea or headache, only the breathing spell. Last Friday I had my first heart catheter, a relatively unpleasant experience; and two hours later the cardiologists were recommending triple bypass surgery. I was in shock. I asked for stents instead.

I went back Monday for another heart cath and possible surgery or stents. The test indicated my heart was very strong; but three arteries were 80% blocked, including the “widow maker artery.” Somehow it seems widow maker is not a very positive-laden name for an artery but whatever.

I’ve done a lot of praying the last five days. I pray a lot anyway but have been especially zealous lately.

I, as a Christian, believe in an afterlife and believe the Judge of my numerous flaws will be very forgiving and compassionate and merciful. In other words, I think I will make the cut. Not because I’ve followed all the rules (hardly) or because I deserve it (I do not); but because I do believe that God is reality, not mythology, and I believe that Jesus was sent to us by God to save us from ourselves. He saved me in November with a warning.

“You better be glad you had that breathing spell in November,” my cardio-surgeon said before leaving the hospital Monday evening. “Otherwise you probably wouldn’t have made it through the year.”

God gave me a warning, and I followed up. Most men do not follow up, but women are more conscientious. So to the men out there: If you ever have a sudden but brief breathing spell, or sweating spell or sudden bout of severe nausea or anything really odd; go to the doctor. They could be warnings from the Almighty.

I will do lots of praying between now and June 2 when I have open heart surgery, worrying about kids, grandkids, Scarlette the Great Dane and Poocha the cat and all my wonderful, wonderful friends, family and my Omega Letter family. Everyone is praying for me, and you may not know how great it makes me feel.

Jesus was not in fear of dying, because He knew of the resurrection. He would rise again. To the growing number of people in America, according to a recent Pew Research Poll, who believe that Jesus did not exist: Who do you think the 400-500 people who saw Jesus walking and talking after He was killed and buried and many who wrote about it, see?

After Jesus finished praying that night in the Garden of Gethsemane, was He heartbroken that His prayer was not answered the way He was hoping? Probably not. His resurrection after death was proof in the pudding that the same would happen to all.

Thank you.

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