The Infamous Death Bed Scene

The death bed scene has often been held up as a morality tale. Personally, I think it’s a very poor one. Let us picture the following scenario. You’ve come to the end of your days and you’re lying on your death bed waiting for whatever kind of afterlife you belief in to come. Your mind starts to flash back, rolling away the years, days and times commingle, scenes from youth and events from yesterday get mixed together. Nothing dramatic, no Scrooge like conversions, no ghosts from times past wafting up from sceptic clean sheets, just the human memory collecting and reviewing, for the last time, the events of a life now about to ebb away.

What will your thoughts be? What figures will appear? Will those memories be happy ones, filled with joyful satisfaction, or will they be dolefully laced with bitter regrets?

Picture the scene

Various scenes arise, your own home, the very expensive mansion overlooking a beautiful picturesque bay, all the parties you had in it. (That Christmas in 2015 was a particularly good one, not that you remember too much of it). Now scenes from holidays arise. Those trips to the States, lazy days in sunny California, the splendour of Yavapai Point at the Grand Canyon, unforgettable nights in the city that never sleeps. Or that trip of a lifetime to Africa, the magnificent Kenyan Safari park, climbing Kilimanjaro, the splendour of Egypt and the Sphinx’s inscrutable smile? Or perhaps the hidden treasures of Europe, the castles along the beautiful Rhine, the breathtaking beauty of the Amalfi coast, the glamour and glitz that is Paris. 

Now other memories arise. Meeting your soul mate, the day you got married, walking down the aisle like it was yesterday (it was!), the birth of your first child, the pride you felt, the wonderful days of happiness spent together. Ah! Success in the commercial world, the thrill and excitement of starting your own business. Even the more perilous times where it nearly all went belly up. The day you landed that really big deal, the day you made your first million. Even better the time you wrote your first check for one million dollars. Boy, that was when you really knew you made it!

Or perhaps it’s the trophies you remember, the Ferrari gleaming outside your front door, nicely situated so the neighbours can see it, the private helicopter you bought, the premier league football team you acquired (whatever happened to them?) Maybe you recall meeting celebrity figures, politicians, financiers and royalty, having them round at your mansion, that was pretty cool. All in all it was a very good life. Wasn’t it?

Before it all came to an end!

Or shock horror . . . the picture’s all wrong!

What if, when you look back, instead of the above what you see is sadness and misery, your life a legacy of broken relationships, unfulfilled dreams, business ventures that failed? There is poor health, depression, insolvency, homelessness. You remember the long days and even longer nights alone, sometimes going hungry, always miserable, the addictions, the arguments, a life of broken dreams.

How valuable is this ?

I have attended numerous self development courses over the years, as no doubt you have, some excellent, others awful, and this particular death bed exercise is one I’ve come across more than once. Its purpose is to have you say, ‘gee-wiz, I don’t want to end up in the latter scenario. It’s success for me from here on. I definitely want to remember that Christmas 2015 party!’

Let me tell you folks, it’s BS!

Trust me, when you are on your death bed you won’t care sixpence for what happened in your life. When people come to this stage their breathing is laboured, they are experiencing discomfort, often in physical pain, or so doped on drugs that they don’t know where they are. The last thing they are thinking about is the parties they had, the places they visited, the money they made. If anything, there may be a slight advantage to your life having been miserable, as in the second scenario, when you’re on your death bed.

Because you’re leaving it.

Glad to be shot of that!

Supposing, just supposing you were to reflect at this time on your life just lived, which I seriously doubt, you would realise in that moment that there is no difference between what we now call success or failure. You would see those ‘twin imposters’ for what they are, one and the same. They are merely relative terms we use to describe things, to label people, and to define our lives to ourselves in a way that never does it justice.

Of course I’m not saying let’s choose the second scene. But ask yourself, what about the dinner you had last Tuesday week (if you can remember it), how does that feel now? Does it give you any satisfaction? At the time it was nourishing, and if you were very hungry a welcome delight indeed. Now it’s nothing. You can only live in the now. I know this is a cliché but it’s still true. Yesterday’s dinner is no use to anyone, equally the money you spent last year, the lover you had when you were fourteen. We can be grateful for them. But things in the past cannot give us any pleasure now, except to think about them. As it is we live too much in the past, and at times we think it’s real.

Were you to look back from your death bed on a ‘full and rich life’ it would be with a touch of regret, because now you’re about to depart it, you’re about to lose everything. The only time we can enjoy anything is in the present moment. If you source your good in the material, the house overlooking the bay, or the friends that entertained you so, then you’re in trouble. They are ephemeral. They do not last. And when that goes so does your happiness. Everything in your world is a projection of you, like a kind of giant hologram. In time that recedes, returns to its Origin, and then you are left with what you are at your true core.

Enjoy what you’re having or doing at this particular moment. Stop now and savour what you are doing. Enjoy these words that you’re reading. If you are drinking a cup of tea enjoy the flavour, the texture, the taste. What does it feel like in your mouth? What does it feel like as it slips down into your stomach? You can only experience this pleasure now. Once. You cannot enjoy the pleasure that that particular sip of tea gave you ever again, not in the future, not next week, and certainly not when you are dying.

You are successful right now whatever you are doing, regardless of whether you have any money or not. Success is just an idea. Everything is an idea, including death. Stop worrying about that, and don’t waste your time thinking about what you’ll be thinking when that time comes.

Which, by the way, viewed from the perspective of nonlocality, is now.

Return from death bed scene to home page.

There is a voice that doesn’t use words - listen!


Reality is merely an illusion - albeit a persistent one.

Albert Einstein