Lately I've been taking a lot of comfort in the experiences of people who have been declared medically dead. The universal report: a white light, a whooshing tunnel, a feeling of immense peace and relief. The knowledge that all that you love remains intact and you will be reunited. A hallucination, one that some of us have come close to having while fully alive, usually after taking a ton of drugs.
Whether or not this ultimate fulfillment of our deepest wishes is just the effect of our neurotransmitters putting on one last show before they shut down, the fact that it's our mind's best possible show, and it comes on right when we need it most, makes me feel, frankly, a lot more optimistic about dying. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I would survive or not survive various deadly situations -- violence, natural disaster, plane crash -- I spend a lot of time bargaining with rapists in my head, picturing myself pinned beneath rubble or plummeting to my death. What do I want my loved ones to know? That I died happy, not terrified or in pain, that I loved them very much, that I knew at the end that it was all going to be all right. I had an endoscopy about two years ago, and when they put the anesthesia in the IV and I felt the heat of it hit my veins, I panicked, and said, "Tell my husband I love him." I lost consciousness to the sound of the nurse laughing.
When I was twenty, I was suddenly seized by the idea that everybody alive at that moment would be dead soon, all of us, everybody, none of us would survive, and I almost couldn't walk down the street without screaming, without exhorting my fellow humans to fight this thing. Now I feel like, you know what, in a zombie apocalypse, I'm not joining the scrappy band of survivors; I'm getting bit and getting it over with.