What if you have only 7 more days to live?

By Sim Kwang Yang

If you are told by your doctor that you have been stricken by an incurable disease, and that you will die in seven days, what are the things that you will do first?  This may be a hypothetical question, but give it a try.  See whether it will make you think about changing life’s priority.

This is a trick question I used to ask my philosophy class in the New Era College.  The diverse answers I got did show the different personality of the students.

People live their daily life without thinking about death and dying of course.  In fact, many people live as if they will never die.  The subject is so tabooed that whenever it is brought up, everyone will hush you down.  They think that life is good and death is bad.  They think that even talking about death and dying may bring bad luck.

My 31 year old young friend Fook Woon came to visit me last week.  He is a fisherman by profession, working out of the fishing island of Pulau Ketam in Selangor.  He visits me once a year.  With his rugged feature, his deep sun tan, and his muscular body, he looks more like a gangster than a fisherman.

He studied philosophy for a year with me once.  He is also a poet, a pretty good one at that.  He is one of the most insightful young men I have ever met.

He wanted to talk about Thanatology, the study of dying and death.  It is a multi-disciplinary study involving medical care personnel, priests, sociologists, and even philosophers.  I hear it is quite a popular course in the US, and has now swept Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong.