Ceasing to Exist


I’ve been thinking a lot about death and dying recently. Not about my own death, but about it in the more abstract sense. About ceasing to exist.


I guess I should start by saying that I just read The Fault in Our Stars. I started it on Sunday night and finished it last night. I don’t I’ve ever read a more painfully beautiful story. What is it about a book that causes the hours to fly by? That keep you reading and reading, well after you should have turned the light out and gotten some dang sleep?

This book was like a sweet drug, pulling me in and forcing me to continue on, knowing that the end result would be pain. Because for me (and so many people in the world of childhood cancer), the fiction of this book is a reality. I sit in an office each day, surrounded by thank you notes and photos from children across the country, dead and alive. Kids who are at all stages in the battle against childhood cancer. Augustus was real for me. Because I interact with kids just like Augustus and Hazel every day.

Sometimes doing what I do puts my head an a very dark place. And it should. Kids are dying. 49 kids every week in the U.S. alone. While it feels good sometimes to know that I’m doing something about it, it also can put me in a dark place personally. It isn’t the kind of job you leave behind when you walk out the door at 5pm.

So perhaps my timing on reading The Fault in Our Stars wasn’t the best. But I’m still glad I read it.

The thing is, perhaps because of what I do, I spend more time than most worrying/wondering/being scared shitless about the afterlife. Most days, I’d consider myself Agnostic but a borderline atheist. I want not to be. I would love to believe in something. I just can’t. I get anxious every time I think about not thinking. About the fact that when you die you just die. That you just cease to exist. I have to consciously put the idea out of my mind or I’ll start to panic a bit. It terrifies me.

I, much like Augustus, want to feel like my life meant something. Because realistically, in 200 years no one will know I existed or had thoughts or feelings or fears or that I ate too much pizza and hated the color orange. It seems that historically, you have to do something either amazingly good or horiffically bad on a huge scale to be remembered. I probably won’t be. But I still want my life to mean something.

That’s all for today. Sorry for the weird mood.

  • Helene

    That book was completely amazing. It had a real mess for me that is hard for me to talk about but the honesty of the book speaks for itself. I think I live in a way in which I often just don’t ever think about death. Not sure that’s the way to live but I guess ignorance is bliss. It’s amazing to connect to a book, such a good one!

  • I understand the mood. Sometimes you realize, how small you are in a big world and it’s overwhelming. But you have such an amazing job that helps so many, lives are made better by you! Also, I hate the color orange too!

    • religion is following the rules, riltaus, and traditions of a defined religion. following the holy books, believing in gods word, and going to a holy place of worship regularly.ethics is the set of earthly morals to follow. whats right and wrong from the human perspective.spirituality is a combo of both. it usually loosely follows at least one religion, takes the basics of it, and blends it with worldly ethics.References :

  • I loved that book, and it definitely stirred up some questions about my life. What can I do to make an impact? Sure, in 200 years no one will really know who I was, but if I can make a relevant impact in just one person, and they make an impact on someone else and so on, my actions in one way or another has impacted hundreds of lives. It’s kind of weird to think of because time is infinite in our own mind, but it’s possible if we just take a moment to realize how one simple thing, can really make a difference. We may cease to exist tomorrow and it’s scary, that’s why it’s important to never take advantage of every moment. <3

  • Such an honest, thoughtful post. Thank you for sharing. I feel much of the same way, only I do believe in a higher power. The Fault In Our Stars is actually waiting for me to pick up at the library. I’m so excited to read it.

  • That was such a terrible good book. I cried through like the last 1/3 and read it super fast too.

  • Omg! I too get anxious when I think about afterlife. I’ve heard great things about this but now wonder if I should read it. I don’t work with childhood cancer. But I work for the American Cancer Society. I’m a cancer survivor with many, many complications. Relapse means death for me (sadly, I can’t be treated again.) It’s always in my face. 24/7 cancer. I love what I do. My heart is full. But damn it’s hard to deal with this stuff!!!

  • I love your honesty! Although I used to fear the afterlife (even had terrifying, recurring dreams about death, etc) I don’t get anxious about the afterlife anymore, but rather long for it in a way. Does that sound weird? I hope for it, because I believe in a new earth that will be nothing but good, no evil, death or decay…and I long for that! It’s honestly the only thing that has helped me grieve the death of my dad from cancer 2 years ago.
    It’s hard to explain because everyone has to come to their own revelation about it all, ya know?
    I have been meaning to pick up this book. I’m a highly sensitive person so I’m sure I will ugly cry through the whole thing! Thanks for being so honest!!

  • Fran Retter

    Nadine… I totally understand how you feel about the “afterlife”. I’ve been fighting Cancer for over 4 years now and have given it more thought than ever. We have similar thoughts regarding religion/non religion. I do plan on getting the book.. thanks for being so open, it’s refreshing.


  • You know, weirdly, I get the same anxiety over that. I wish there were some way to know, but there isn’t, so why bother thinking about it? But no, I can’t do that, so I just have to think about something I’ll never have a real answer to. It’s unsettling but necessary. I know what you mean about about being remembered, and I don’t think it’s synonymous with having a meaningful life. The way I (try to) figure it, as long as someone else was happy that I was here, that was meaningful. You’re meaningful to many, I’m certain. 🙂 Thanks for writing such a real post.

  • Even if I did not believe in a higher power, I refuse to believe that this is it. The few times I have wondered about it, I start to remember what it is that draws people to one another. There’s a certain je ne sais quoi in all of us (some call it the soul) and we cannot just be empty inside. There has to be something inside of us besides just intelligence that goes on to exist after our bodies expire. That’s just my secular two cents 🙂

  • I completely agree that this was a very difficult book to read but definitely worth it.

  • Literally, we are on the same wavelength right now. I’ve been thinking about death in the abstract way all the time recently… and it terrifies me and I feel like it’s bad luck, so I always try not to. But I do. And it’s weird. It’ll just be life, life, life, and then… nothing at all. Really such a crazy concept. I’ve been seeing a lot of historical things lately- plaques, introductions, and whatnot… and it’s crazy to me how the only way you’re ever immortal is if you do something amazing and get in the history books. And even then…. you have to be at the 0.000001 of humanity to reach that point. Gah!

  • it is a really weird thing to think about, isn’t it? my religion and beliefs comforts me as i know i will be with my husband in the afterlife, that my family will be with me in the afterlife, and that there is a God looking down on me. but i have been feeling weird lately like my life doesn’t really have a purpose and what would happen if i died? i guess we have both been in a weird mood!

  • After having seen the trailers, this book has gone on my to-read list. Death and life are topics that I think humanity will argue and ponder till the end of time. I personally am a theist, but have a lot of issues with organized religion. Ah well.

  • I totally understand your mood! I read the book in less than a day and I loved it. Yes, it’s a very sad story and I bawled my eyes out reading it and bawled finishing it but I am so glad I did. It made me feel something and question a lot of things. I’m assuming that’s what John Green eventually wanted us to do!

    On a good note: Aren’t you excited for the movie though, I’m gonna drag my husband to go see it!!

  • I loved this book. The idea of existing and not living definitely hit home for me. Their love, their lives were beautiful and tragic.

  • I haven’t read that book yet, but it’s on my list.

    I can’t imagine having the kind of job you do. You are a good person for doing it. I’m sure there are days when it’s really hard.

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