Thursday, May 5, 2011

Derek K Miller's Last Post

People often ask what atheists think about death. They ask this of each other, they ask it of their clergy, they ask it of their spiritual advisors, I have been asked, I have heard the question asked rhetorically to nobody in particular. The fact is that this question has been answered quite often by dying atheists. Yesterday Derek K Miller eloquently answered it again.

"I haven't gone to a better place, or a worse one. I haven't gone anyplace, because Derek doesn't exist anymore. As soon as my body stopped functioning, and the neurons in my brain ceased firing, I made a remarkable transformation: from a living organism to a corpse, like a flower or a mouse that didn't make it through a particularly frosty night. The evidence is clear that once I died, it was over.

So I was unafraid of death—of the moment itself—and of what came afterwards, which was (and is) nothing. As I did all along, I remained somewhat afraid of the process of dying, of increasing weakness and fatigue, of pain, of becoming less and less of myself as I got there. I was lucky that my mental faculties were mostly unaffected over the months and years before the end, and there was no sign of cancer in my brain—as far as I or anyone else knew"

What worthwhile preparation for death can be gleaned from any religion that is more worthy that an appreciation for life and the loves we find living it?

"I've come to realize that, at any time, I can lament what I will never know, yet still not regret what got me where I am. I could have died in 2000 (at an "old" 31) and been happy with my life: my amazing wife, my great kids, a fun job, and hobbies I enjoyed. But I would have missed out on a lot of things.

And many things will now happen without me. As I wrote this, I hardly knew what most of them could even be. What will the world be like as soon as 2021, or as late as 2060, when I would have been 91, the age my Oma reached? What new will we know? How will countries and people have changed? How will we communicate and move around? Whom will we admire, or despise?"

Then there are the sentiments that when expressed by a dying individual take on a magnificent hue. Some which might seem clipped and trite if casually dropped in conversation become anthems. I will carry this particular sentence around with me all today; stroking it like a treasured icon:

"The world, indeed the whole universe, is a beautiful, astonishing, wondrous place. There is always more to find out. I don't look back and regret anything"

And though I did not know Derek personally he sounded like a fine fellow from his blog; I am reminded that the world is full of marvelous fleeting worthwhile personalities. And though I have reproduced passages from his last post I have not captured the best; see the rest of it here

UPDATE January 2017:  The original last post has slipped off the internet.  Here is a link to an archived copy of Derek's last post:

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