Life is full of uncertainties, but one thing is for sure – we will all die.
Death is something that concerns all of us. It doesn’t discriminate between young and old, or good and bad. In death, we are all equal.
Annette Navis is only 36 years old, but she has had several near-death experiences which forced her to deal with the idea of dying.
Once, death came knocking on her door when she was trapped in quicksand in Langkawi. Her friends quickly noticed what was happening and pulled her out with a dead tree branch.
Another time, Annette was trapped in a flash flood and survived by holding on to a tree. Then she was bitten by a centipede in Sabah. There was also once she jumped off a moving train.
Annette was not supposed to be on that train. She was just sending off a friend to Singapore from Kajang. As she was helping her friend to load the luggage onto the racks, she noticed that the trees were moving. Then she realised the train was moving. No whistle was blown – she was caught completely off-guard.
She panicked as she realised it was a midnight train, which was not going to stop until it reached Singapore. The thought of going to Singapore without her identity card or passport scared her. Annette said she felt an adrenaline rush and just jumped off the moving train.
The next thing Annette remembers is finding herself lying on a patch of grass. She sat there for a while recollecting what had just happened. Then she looked around and realised that her bag and other belongings were strewn along the stones quite a distance from her.
It was puzzling how she had landed on a small patch of grass so far away. If she had landed on the stones where her bag had landed, she might not have survived. Annette believes it must have been divine intervention.
All these near-death experiences might be why Annette says she is not afraid of dying. She told me that there was once when a venomous snake brushed past her arm when she was alone at the beach. “I consider this experience an absolute blessing. I felt at peace”, she said.
Annette was also diagnosed with early stage leukaemia due to severe psoriasis. The doctor told her she had about 5 years left to live “properly”. The 5 years has long past now and she is confident that she will be alright.
Annette welcomes anyone who is suffering from psoriasis to reach out to her. She is a member and ex-secretary of the National Psoriasis Association of Malaysia and can provide support.
These close calls with death made Annette regret that she didn’t do certain things in life. She felt like she had missed out on going to Mongolia when she was travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Annette also never got the chance to swim with whales or dolphins yet, but she says she’s come to terms with that just in case she checks out before.
When I asked Annette what she wishes people will say about her after she dies, she said she’s not concerned. However, she had certain wishes for the afterlife.
Ideally, she would like to spend some time being a Pontianak. After that, 2 different whale species, both female and male. Lastly, a mountain with several cave paths and a running river inside her.
Although Uma Devi has not had any near-death experiences in her 69 years of life, she still thinks of her own death at times. In her time working as a nurse, she has witnessed death many times. Uma has also experienced the pain of losing many loved ones.
When I asked Uma if she was scared of dying, she said – “Death is painful and even Jesus was afraid. I guess all humans fear and try to avoid death, but death is certain. So I have sort of accepted death and am sort of preparing for it.”
If she had to die now, Uma wishes her children and family would be with her so she can tell them how much she loves them and ask forgiveness for not meeting all their needs as a parent. It does not matter to her what people say about her after she dies, but Uma believes life is eternal and the soul will be reunited with god.
Joss, on the other hand, is not religious and doesn’t really care so much about the afterlife, if it was not for his mom. He hopes to meet his mom after he dies. When his time comes he wishes people will say “Joss was a cool dude! May his soul rest in peace.”
In his 34 years of life, Joss says he has no regrets, as he tends to live his life to the fullest. If he was going to die in 3 months, Joss said, “I would love to travel to more places. If my health condition is not that great, maybe just chill and hang out with friends.” Death doesn’t scare Joss, as it’s part of life.
Terrence (not his real name) says he’s not scared of death if he goes peacefully. That’s why he meditates on death and impermanence daily, so he can make peace with it when he’s ready to go. Terrence has always been fascinated by the darker side of life. I would say he’s an interesting combination of a Satanist and a Buddhist.
When I asked Terrence what he would do with only 3 months to live, he said “Travel the world!! Life is too short for regrets. Literally.” Terrence said he would regret not being able to complete all the things on his bucket list if he had to die now.
As for the afterlife, Terrence doesn’t believe in it. He says he can only be sure of one thing – maggots will feed on his corpse. When he dies, he wishes people will say, “This guy is #yolo.”
Anna Maria is somewhat similar to Terrence in her views about life after death. Her response was, “Nothing. Lights out. Game over!” Anna is a taxidermist who has a somewhat unusual interest in reanimating dead animals.
When I asked Anna if she’s ever thought about her own death, she said, “I used to think about my death more when I was younger but now I mostly think about the death of my loved ones.” As for fear of death, Anna feels it’s a waste of energy worrying or being scared of our inevitable death.
If she happened to be dying at this very moment, Anna would regret not having the time to learn more and create more as an artist. However, if Anna knew she was going to die in 3 months, she said, “I would sell and donate all my personal belongings. Inform the organ donation centre about my upcoming death and spend every single minute around my loved ones. I imagine myself to be surrounded by friends and family. Filled with only love and happiness. And if I still have time, I would love to skydive!”
After she dies, Anna hopes people would say that she cared, and loved a lot.
Pondering over your own death may sound morbid, but whether you’re intrigued by death or not, one day we will all have to face death, so we might as well be prepared for it.
For more articles like these read My Abusive Husband Died in My Arms. Here’s My Story, and My Husband Died and the In-Laws Took Everything from Us: The Story of a Widowed Friend.