A while ago I had a conversation with a friend on Facebook about dealing with the death of a loved one. This is part of that conversation.
I've been thinking about your note that we as people tend to fear death.
My grandfather was the most ethical man I ever knew. He never went to church and even used to joke that he wasn't worried about going to hell because he would be too busy shaking all of his friend's hands. :)
He died in December of 2000. I was in Chile struggling with the nascent atheism that was beginning to cast the demon of Christianity out of my mind. When I heard he was on his death bed I raced to the airport and flew to Lansing.
I was at his side when he died.
At his funeral I told the entire funeral home that he was in a better place. I did not believe my own words. I knew that he was dead. Plain and simple. I had his legacy of ethics, and I had his genes. In that sense he lives on in me, my brothers, my mom, aunt, and cousins.
He also lives in my kids and grandkids.
I was one of the pallbearers. As we left him at the graveside it occurred to me that most of my fellow evangelical pastors would say that he was now in hell. Some of those pastors were horrible examples of ethics. If my granddad was in hell, then they would be at least two feet lower!
At that point it became easier for me to simply accept that he no longer existed, except in my memories and when my family and I talk about him.
Anyway, that's how I deal with it.