FACING THE PAIN OF THE DEATH: in the analytic session and in our life
In our analytic room we cannot avoid confronting daily the problem of death. Very often we have to stand the wish to die with which some depressed patients torture themselves and their analysts. In other sessions we meet patients who are anguished by death in a dramatic way, experiencing it, as if it were a reality, in their bodies. For instance, the person who suffers a panic attack is convinced that his/her own death is imminent. During a panic attack the psychosomatic symptoms are in the foreground; the mind registers and translates them into unequivocal signs of an unavoidable catastrophe. In normal situations the awareness of the end of life is always present in us, and it faces us all the time with anxieties, which might change in intensity and become more acute when we go through particular moments of crisis. This ineliminable conflict between the psychological illusion of infinite development and the necessarily transient nature of our biological structure is at the root of the anxiety and existential crises we go through in the course of our lives. The principal hypothesis of this paper is that death, as a natural occurrence, is inscribed in our internal world as a psychotic disaster, a state of disintegration of ones personal identity which is not easy to conceptualise or tolerate.
I suggest that psychic work is required, throughout life to make this catastrophic occurrence thinkable, and I wonder what emotional resources might be necessary to limit and contain the feeling of loneliness and the pain of death. It is possible to accept our own death as individuals by coming to terms with and integrating the legacy from the past and opening ourselves up to the possibility of investing and projecting onto other peoples future lives. The future thus represents the avenue for collective reparation, through a transgenerational transmission that locates the flow of life beyond the death of the subject. In the last analysis, reparation can only occur within a collective context, as it offers us a wider temporal dimension. In this collective time, we work through and transcend our personal finiteness, to merge with other peoples sense of time future. Coming to terms with the inevitability of death and accepting the disappearance of our individual self goes hand in hand with the integration of the past, and this psychic work promotes our mental growth until the end of our days. This continuous integration of the past becomes even more meaningful the more we are able to accept the mystery of our transience. An integrated sense of self gives us a measure of safety, which is essential to be able to project into the future of others and, in so doing, avoid the catastrophic sense of dissolution into nothingness. If we are unable to work through the pain of the disappearance of our individual self, projecting into others would represent merely an idealising defence in the service of our narcissistic desire to go on living.
My hypothesis is that death, as a natural occurrence, is inscribed in our internal world as a psychotic disaster. A psychic work is required to make this catastrophic occurrence thinkable and many emotional resources might be necessary to limit and contain the feeling of loneliness and the pain of death.
The paradox of immortality What would life be without death? We are accustomed to the succession of day and night and to seasons that come to an end: everything in nature conforms to a cycle. Perhaps death represents a necessary process of mourning without which life would be meaningless. Leo Jančeks opera The Makropulos Case (1926) is based on a play by the Czech writer Karel Čapek (1922). Čapek claims that an artificially prolonged life is a state of affairs with very little that is ideal and, in fact, very little that is desirable about it (p. 2), which would make one increasingly cynical and perverse. The protagonist of Jančeks opera, Emilia Marty, alias Elina Makropulos, is already three hundred years old but looks hardly any more than thirty. She is an outstandingly beautiful operatic diva who has seduced a large number of men in her past lives and sets about finding further victims for her collection on account of her cynicism and lust for power. She owes her longevity to her father, who gave her the formula for a magic potion that extended her life and enabled her to weave her plots. Jančeks opera ends with the unmasking of the protagonist after a series of intrigues resulting from her knowledge, due to her longevity, of past events in which she took part in disguise. Her final confession leaves everyone incredulous and appalled: the shadow of death appears on her face, which suddenly shows all the signs of decrepitude. The singer decides to stop using the potion and sets fire to the formula while telling her companions that perpetual youth is but boredom and pain. Her dying words are: Its a great mistake to live so long! Oh, if you could only know how easy life is for you! You are so close to life! You see in life some meaning! Life has for you some value! Fools, how happy you all are. [...] And its due to the paltry chance that you will all die soon (Janček, 1926). A similar state of affairs is portrayed in Simone de Beauvoirs novel All Men Are Mortal (1946). Fosca, the hero, is found in a hotel garden by an actress called Regina; motionless and seemingly lifeless, he wakes up only because she takes an interest in him in the hope of being loved and remembered in perpetuity and therefore coaxes him back to life. Fosca was born in 1279 and has taken part in some of the most important events in history. However, with the passage of the years, his zest for life has progressively diminished. Everyone he has met and who has come close to him has been unable to withstand the confrontation with an immortal and has succumbed to an early death. He is always alone, boredom and apathy his constant companions. In the depths of his being he envies men and their mortality: Im alive and yet Im lifeless. I shall never die and I have no future. I am no one. Ive no past and no face (p. 29). No one can imagine what it is like. [...] immortality is a curse (p. 79). The curse of immortality is revealed in the dialogue between Fosca and his beloved Beatrice. She tells him she cannot love him because all his actions and his entire being are worthless because he is immortal. She says: Listen to that woman singing. Would her song be so moving if she didnt have to die? (p. 160). Fosca, a prince who could perfectly well take Beatrice by force, begs her for forgiveness and grants her her liberty: the curse of immortality stays with him through the centuries and is transformed into anxiety-ridden dreams that disrupt his sleep. In his nightmares he finds himself alone in a white wilderness under the spectral light of the moon, while one last living being, a mouse, turns eternally round in circles without knowing why. Both Elina Makropulos and Fosca are fed up with life and see death as a liberation. Indeed, they envy other people their mortality. In a disturbing recent book, Swimming in a Sea of Death (2008), David Rieff describes the death of his mother, Susan Sontag, from leukaemia at the age of seventy-one. In spite of her age, Sontag had not had enough of the world and felt that her death was unfair: There was nothing easy about my mothers death [...]. It was hard, and it was slow [...] and in the process it was not only my mother who was stripped of her dignity (p. 137). In recalling how other writers had faced death, Rieff quotes the Israeli poet Abba Kovner, whose poetic legacy includes the following lines: Soon Soon we shall know If we have learned to accept that the stars Do not go out when we die. (Kovner, quoted in Rieff, 2008, p. 154)
David Rieff would have liked his mother to possess the same gift as Bertolt Brecht, who wrote an extraordinary set of poems while on his deathbed at the Charit Hospital in Berlin. In the last of these, he contemplates a bird singing in a tree outside his window: When in my white room at the Charit I woke towards morning And heard the blackbird, I understood Better. Already for some time I had lost all fear of death. For nothing Can be wrong with me if I myself Am nothing. Now I managed to enjoy The song of every blackbird after me too. (Brecht, 1976, p. 451f.) ** Death in the consulting room** In our analytic room we cannot avoid confronting daily the problem of death. Very often we have to stand the wish to die with which some depressed patients torture themselves and their analysts. In other sessions we meet patients who are anguished by death in a dramatic way, experiencing it, as if it were a reality, in their bodies. For instance, the person who suffers a panic attack is convinced that his/her own death is imminent. During a panic attack the psychosomatic symptoms are in the foreground; the mind registers and translates them into unequivocal signs of an unavoidable catastrophe. At times those who suffer from excessive death anxiety and panic attacks have been children precociously perturbed by a fear of death. This is an example. A twelve-year-old girl who has come into treatment is terrified by war news, which she listens to on the radio or television and refuses to leave the house. She tells me that she is unable to go to school because she is very frightened by the risk of dying when she is alone, on her way to school. She builds up in her mind terrifying events, which she sees as possible, for the sheer fact that she thinks about them. For instance, she is terrified that the sun might crush into the earth and all her family die. As soon as this thought comes to mind, within a few minutes, it turns into anxiety and then into dread. Everything seems to be contaminated by her catastrophic doubt. Who tells us, so the patient thinks, that the laws of nature are so infallible? Likewise, might it not happen that the heart or lungs stop working all of a sudden? Thoughts like this and many other of similar nature torment her to a paralysing point. The girls anxiety has begun to undermine some basic vital functions like, for instance, eating. She claims that the she could choke by simply swallowing her food; for this reason, as soon as she begins to eat, she freezes, out of fear. As in this case, the fear of death can develop very early. I will report, below, the statements of another adolescent girl, who is going through a period of deep depression, unacknowledged by her family. This girls most severe symptom, at present, is a devastating anorexia.
The patient says: I am really anguished at the thought of death, I feel fated to die young. Life is nothing and I feel already old. When I see someone younger than me, I feel like crying, I feel like an old person, tired of life, unable to change anything. It is a good fortune to die in adolescence, so there are no regrets for time past. To die old, sad, abandoned; I would rather die now! Last night I had a horrible dream from which I woke up very agitated. In the dream I was with my mother and father and we were going to die. Only if we had managed to fill in some holes, would we have been able to survive. I was terrified and I was digging the soil with my hands, trying to fill in the hole. At some point, as I was digging, I came across some old objects and an old photograph frame and we became very engrossed in looking at them. However we could not really stop and look, there was no time to waste and he had to fill in the holes.
This dream is very effective in evoking the anguish felt at the passage of time, which opens up some devastating gaping holes in this adolescent girls life. It is essential to fill in the holes of time, which draw her nearer to death; there is no time to look at the past (the photograph frame), which could give meaning and continuity to her life. The risk of accomplishing ones own physical or psychic death is a rather frequent occurrence in cases of serious mental pathology. This can be seen, for instance, in severe melancholia, where hatred towards life and the Self, with its wish to live, is so intense that Freud talked about the melancholic Super-Ego as a pure culture of the death instinct. The impulse towards suicide is the immanent condition of the melancholic state and is fuelled by the power of the Super -Ego, which blames the patient for failure and demands the ultimate sacrifice. We must note, however, that even though death wishes can be linked to delusional guilty feelings, the melancholic is always aware of aiming towards death and doesnt deny it. In other mental conditions, which also drive towards death, the situation is very different In anorexia nervosa, for instance, the patient is not aware of being ill or in pain, and denies that the anorectic behaviour can lead to death. Indeed, food refusal is not felt to be an abnormal behaviour, rather it is turned into an extraordinary experience: because of her omnipotence, the anorectic is not aware that her attraction towards this mental state is the equivalent of an attraction towards death. In many cases the drive towards death acts secretly and quietly; these patients personalities seem dominated by a self-destructive force, which presents itself with idealised, exciting and positive features. Mental areas charged with self-destructive impulses are formed: these are silent psychotic islands, which remain within the personality, ready to break out at times of crisis. In less severely ill patients, those we meet more frequently in our psychoanalytic work, the attraction towards death might appear in dream images of beautiful landscapes in which a cemetery appears particularly pretty or is painted in lively colours. One of my patients, traumatized in her childhood, in a particularly sad and difficult period in her life as well as in her analysis, dreamt of flying over a little town, located on a cliff dropping sheer to the blue sea, a very beautiful Mediterranean landscape, and wishing to dive into that sea. The patient associated the little town over the sea with the Greek island where her father, together with other Italian officers, had been shot by the German soldiers and thrown into the sea. A characteristic feature of these mental states and these dreams is their lack of anxiety, which, together with an idealization of death, allows selfdestruction to be acted out.
Ivan Ilcs death The protagonist of Tolstojs novel is a successful man, an efficient judge, able to find balanced and brilliant solutions. A day he climbs on a ladder to check some curtains, falls down and hits his hip against a handle. He is not seriously injured but has a painful hip. The real illness manifests itself as a strange taste in the mouth and some abdominal trouble, located in the left side, the one affected by the trauma. At this point, Ivn goes from doctor to doctor, in a series of unsatisfactory encounters, because physicians examine and scrutinize him, tell and do not tell. His mood gets progressively worse; he comes to the conclusions that he is in serious trouble, whilst doctors and everyone else seem not to care. Ivn Ilc knew he was dying, and not only had he not become accustomed to that thought, but he simply could not understand it, as he could not comprehend that kind of things. He was unable to comprehend how death could happen to him, precisely himself, just when he was living a life of habits and pleasant memories. Not to anyone else, but to himself indeed. If, at this point, Ivn Ilc had been able to take into the grave with him the whole world, he did not want to leave behind, and all his relatives, who were detaching themselves from him, he would have been triumphant and satisfied. On the other hand, was his family not the mirror of his emotional indifference, emptiness and wish not to be disturbed by the pain of the world? In his family he sees himself, all he had ever lived for, and understands that his life was an enormous (self) deception: If I were to die, knowing that I have wasted all that I had been given, if it were not possible to put it right, what would it then be like? Ivn Ilc finally understands his drama only when he realizes that he would have been helped if someone had expressed their love or noticed his dismay. Gerasim, his peasant servant was the only one to take care of him with humble solicitude, when asked. It is too late when Ivn Ilc understands the value of human solidarity and also how much he has lost in life: there is no more time left to live, to repair and build a life on different values. Now, with this lacerating intuition, he is overwhelmed by inner chaos and despair. He lashes out his inhuman rage, screaming without pause, similarly to the desperate scream in Munchs painting, for three whole days, until everything quietens out in the silence of death. It looks as though, before his illness, Ivn never thought about the meaning of life: perhaps he imagined he would live a happy life with no time boundaries. What did he think about it before? He seems to have located the thought of death outside his horizon and outside time. We could say that his life had been well functioning, but this is precisely the problem he had been unaware of. Everything seemed to have happened naturally, with no bad faith or deceit on his part. However, even without the stressful irruption of his illness, sooner or later Ivn Ilcs life would have been perturbed by the thought of old age and death.
The mid-life crisis The mid-life is an important moment of life from a pathological and developmental point of view. As psychoanalysts, we know that many patients ask for a psychoanalytical treatment in this moment of their lives. Unconsciously they feel that they do not have useful defenses to face the second part of life. They become anxious and depressed. The psychoanalyst Elliott Jacques, in an important paper entitled Death and middle-life crisis (1965), attempts to explain why people find it difficult to face the thought of their own death. His theoretical contribution is inspired by Melanie Klein, who thinks that the subjective experience of death is linked to the primitive anxieties characteristic of our individual relational patterns with the internal and external world. Jacques definition of middle-life crisis applies to that particular age, between thirty and forty, that leads to a process of psychological transformation, variable from person to person and whose duration is undefined. This is a critical phase in life cycle which can generate an involution or a development. From this point onward awareness of our mortality triggers depressive feelings and infantile anxieties re-emerge. This is a critical phase in life cycle which can generate an involution or a development. In midlife we enter the fullness of life, whilst, at the same time, we become more and more aware of its finiteness. An explicit acceptance of our own real mortality would be the indispensable premise to enable us to overcome our middle-life crisis. People can overcome their middle life crisis only if they succeed in facing constructively the notion of the limits of life and the traumatic impact of the thought of death. When this experience evolves in a positive way, the second half of life can be lived usefully and productively. We know that working through the pain caused by our finite human nature is not accomplished once for all, rather it is an ongoing process. After a certain age, the work of mourning is a constant feature of our psychic life. The problem of the body and its transformation is a very important point in this age. Whether midlife will result development or involution depends from the struggle between positive and destructive forces. Midlife asks for the reparation of an imperfect object, which is our limited existence. The feeling that our horizon becomes ever more limited can be ameliorated if we are able to reflect on how much we can still create and transmit to those who will come after us. Many people, writers, painters, artists etc. find their creativity in the second part of their life when the midlife crisis has been successfully overcome. From a metapsychological point of view it is very important to consider the power and the quality of the Super-ego at work in the specific moment of age. A too narcissist reproaching Super-ego will chide the patient for his deficiencies, for not having done everything in order to maintain previous z. Sometimes the Super-ego reproaches the ego for having lived a life full of lies. The story of Ivan Ilics death written by Tolstoi is very revealing.
The necessity of a future Winnicott is the first analyst who puts forwards a developmental model of the Self (1958), which he regards as innate potential and as the psychic equivalent of the body, with its ability to grow and develop its functions. The maturational process, or rather the capacity to become what we are, is inborn and develops into the Self, understood as a progressive organization and realization of the Ego, achieved through self-awareness. We achieve a sense of personal integrity in those moments when we perceive ourselves as whole beings. Winnicott thinks that the experience of illusion is essential to the creation of the potential space of the Self and so must not be destroyed by the mothers response. This illusory dimension is clearly essential for the infants perception of the continuity of its own being. Whilst Freud sees omnipotence as an illusory and narcissistic feature, Winnicott shows that an initial experience of boundless illusion is not only developmentally necessary, but also a foundation for our mental well-being. Christopher Bollas (1989) thinks that, as people have an unconscious perception of the development of their own Self, the inability to think about the future represents a particular type of loss. The most obvious instance of this is when a child loses a parent and thus loses the relationship with his/her own future. In this case, damage occurs to the articulation of the self, which takes place through the object. Moreover all the future options, linked to the good objects and good relationships with them, are inevitably destroyed. Only by emotionally investing the future, can we fully make use of the determination and creative vitality necessary to create the most favourable conditions for our development. Like Melanie Klein, Winnicott thinks that the fear of death and illness reactivates the primitive terror of the disintegration of the self amidst chaos and nothingness. The environmental provision of the potential space of illusion would thus represent the only means available to circumscribe, delimit and deny ones awareness of death. We can feel alive only if we can project ourselves into the future: this illusion is the background symphony that allows us to go on living. In a well-known Oriental tale, a high-ranking dignitary meets Death while walking through he city of Isfahan at sunset. At the very moment he recognizes her, he realizes that Death is looking at him with surprise. In a state of terror, he requests an audience from the king and, with his permission to leave the court, he gallops night and day, until he reaches the city of Peshwar, where he thinks he is safe, at last. The day after, however, at the market, the dignitary runs into Death once again, but this time he realizes he can no longer escape. Before his final surrender, he recalls the surprise they both experienced on their first encounter and brings himself to ask: Why were you surprised when we met at Isfahan? and Death replies I had been told I would meet you at Peshwar, not at Isfahan! I quote this story because it well emphasizes, I think, the inevitability of death as well as the fact that we can only know about it in retrospect, when our life has already come to an end: mors certa, hora incerta. Racing ahead in the attempt to exert some control over the length of his life, the dignitary tries to expand his finite time, so as to postpone the unavoidable time of his own death.
An unthinkable event What happens when we are faced with death, when the potential space of development is threatened with disintegration? The answer is that we should confront, at this point without illusion and defences, the experience of the end of our life. Death, in whatever way and at whatever age faces us, evokes in us terror similar to the anxieties of psychotic illness, comparable to psychic death. Even though we are aware of death, we still consider it an unthinkable occurrence. To make it thinkable, we would project it into a temporal and subjective dimension. Death involves the loss of subjective time and memory function. Consequently, the loss of Self, as an inseparable mind-body unity, can only feel like an irreparable absence. What I would like to emphasize is that our death as individuals triggers a specific anxiety, which cannot be worked through easily or assimilated to other partings. I would go as far as saying that, given the characteristics of our mental apparatus, the prospect of death is the traumatic event par excellence. An event might be unthinkable, and still be unmistakably real: actually, as we know, what is not thinkable or representable is a greater source of anxiety and terror. Besides, how can we symbolize nothingness, that absent presence that death reveals itself to be? How can we mourn our own death, when the work of mourning can only occur in the presence of an absence, which was once a presence? My hypothesis is that for all of us the occurrence of death is a real trauma, not really experienced in the past, but projected into the future, which can provoke the same sudden and intrusive sensation that we are re-living the overwhelming event, rather than just thinking about it. The surprising lack of symbolic meanings and the concreteness of our thinking regarding death are evidence of the existence of an area of helplessness in our mind vis--vis this event. This is why I believe that Freud was right when he claimed that real death is absent in the unconscious. I also think, however, that Melanie Klein was equally astute when she detected the presence of another death that is precisely psychic death: the feeling of being alive, but in a paralysed condition. In this context, death is inevitably perceived as persecution and suffering.
How to face the psychic pain of the personal death? Since Analysis Terminable and Interminable (1937), analysts have wondered about the length of psychoanalytic treatments and have reflected upon the maturational effects of the experience of separation. Out of all the experiences characterising the ending of an analysis, what deserves a special attention is the perception of time, which, at this point, has a definite limit and cannot therefore be considered as endless. In spite of the knowledge of the imminent ending, both the analysand and the analyst need to maintain alive the experience of their relationship that does not disappear, solely because they will part, but remains significant until the very last minute. This dual perception of time, which flows and is experienced, at the same time, helps the analysand to develop the capacity to tolerate the transience of life, that very secret which Freud, in the paper On Transience (1915), would have liked to be able to transmit to the melancholic poet, unable to appreciate the beauty of nature, as it is doomed to wither. A good enough experience of separation develops the patients capacity to keep the relationship with the analyst alive in the internal world, thus offering some comfort for the loss of the real object. When two people have had a mutually significant relationship, they do not lose their emotional capacity to remember it, after they have parted. It is necessary, however, to differentiate the psychological experience of separation and mourning from death proper, because the impact of these two events on our mind occurs on different levels. Whilst a separation can potentially be integrated, the same cannot be said about the experience of ones own death. Death, in fact, which entails the destruction of our symbolic and emotional world eludes the work of mourning and transforms the loss into a nameless dread. I hold the view that the psychoanalytic journey allows the patient to re-find the meaning of life but it cannot offer only a very little comfort for the lack of future and the destruction of the potential self, implicit in the prospect of death. We need to accept that the therapeutic process, which permits the mobilisation of the reparative processes, finds here its limit. Reparation, in fact, can occur only when it is possible to imagine ourselves projected into the future. The definite obliteration of time associated to the representation of death makes it impossible to regard reparation as a way of working through the anxiety for the destruction of the Self.
A possible reparation In Aeschylus tragedy, Prometheus is a hero who has helped human kind. He is praiseworthy not for his theft of fire from the Gods, but because he obtained from them that human beings be allowed not to know the time of their own death. Prometheus gift consists in the comforting freedom he has given humanity to live a life without a pre-established limit. The consequences of such ignorance could be twofold. The first one is that, aware that we cannot know the time of our own death, we behave as if life should last forever. The second one is more important because not knowing the time of death allows us to maintain the hope for what is still possible. Such hope, preserved until the end, is a gift to others, as well. As we have an enduring need to extend our life into the future, and likewise to expand our potential knowledge of the world, then it is necessary and vital to preserve the role of illusion, as Winnicott warns us, for as long as we live. As they age, people turn back to look at their past and wonder what they have achieved. If their past has been meaningful, it is easier to preserve the hope of being kept alive in the minds of those who will survive and be remembered for whatever good they have been able to do. This, however, is not enough to come to terms with the end of life. When we can no longer elude the awareness of our transience, we need to be able to project the inexhaustible potential of our being into objects different from us. At this point, it is important to have close real objects who can contain the projections of our potential selves, like children, friends, pupils, institutions or the human values which we have loved and struggled for. If these objects are not available, because we have destroyed them internally or have been unable to create them, then we really experience death as a tragedy. We can counter this inevitable drive towards nothingness only when we create an experience of constructive order, which could make sense of and give meaning to the span of our life. In so doing, we can mitigate the pain of loss and take leave from a valuable and useful life, without too much despair. At the time when we can no longer turn away from the thought of our transience, the pain for what we lose, the intensity of the rage and envy we feel towards those who remain, could be mitigated through a capacity to tolerate our aloneness and the encounter with other human beings. In the good enough conditions the last part of our life is the time of finding our authenticity. We can identify with the good quality of our parents and teachers in a condition of separateness. It is important to reach a state of aloneness. The capacity to be alone and not feel isolated is largely linked to a sense of continuity and personal meaning in the face of the objects absence. To be able to develop what Melanie Klein (1959) and Winnicott (1958) define as the capacity to be alone, we need to have experienced an acknowledgement of our separate identity through our caregivers love. This recognition lays the foundation for a capacity to love and give, with pleasure, to our objects more than we expect from them. The capacity to be alone is predicated upon the achievement of personal integration, which is the prerequisite to be able to tolerate our finite nature, without too much resentment. After all, life, as well as any other object, cannot always be within our possession: we should be able to allow life, too, to take leave from us. As we go through the aging process, the richness of the experiences we have assimilated through having been children, adults and finally old, appears incomparable to the narrowness of our future. If, on the one hand, the possibility of our future expansion decreases, on the other, we identify ever more with our past, which appears as the expanded time of our life. Being able to re-think our past in the light of the experiences, which we have acquired, is an aspect of the constructive work we can do. This is the wisdom of old people. Coming to terms with the inevitability of death and accepting the disappearance of our individual Self goes hand in hand with the integration of the past. This psychic work promotes our mental growth until the end of our days. The continuous integration of the past becomes even more meaningful the more we are able to accept the mystery of our transience. An integrated sense of self is essential to be able to project into the future of others and, in so doing, avoid the catastrophic sense of dissolution into nothingness. When we face death and attempt to leave behind our own Self, we can only find solace in collective, rather than individual reparation. Even when we go through the process of dying, in itself a lonely journey, paradoxically, we still need the presence of others. In the face of death, reparation consists in the arduous journey of many individual Selves who leave themselves in other Selves that will follow. Reparation can only be achieved through the past, through the projection of our past into the future, in the future of others. In conclusion it is possible to accept our own death as individuals by coming to terms with and integrating the legacy from the past and opening ourselves up to the possibility of investing and projecting onto other peoples future lives. The future thus represents the avenue for collective reparation, through a transgenerational transmission that locates the flow of life beyond the death of the subject. Feeling close to our fellow human beings allows us to die with the certainty that the world where we have lived and which we have loved will continue to exist and the next generation will go on inhabiting and observing it. In the last analysis, reparation can only occur within a collective context, as it offers us a wider temporal dimension. In this collective time, we work through and transcend our personal finiteness, to merge with other peoples sense of time future. This is not the same redemption promised by religion, but rather the consolation deriving from feeling part of humanity, which will go on living. The acceptance of the limit of our existence means being able to rejoice at the idea that the world will continues after us. As Bertold Brecht says we have to enjoy the song of every blackbird after us too. In ending my paper I would like to add a note of gaiety to the serious topic I have treated. The sentence comes from Mark Twains book, The Tragedy of Puddnhead Wilson and the Comedy of the Extraordinary Twins, the well known American writer: Let us endeavour so as to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.
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