To be dead is presumably not so bad. There’s the pain and fear of the process of dying, of course. But once you’re dead, that’s over, so nothing to worry about. But even if you choose wisely and avoid at least the pain, there is still the prospect of death, which might be worse than dying.
The prospect of death is of course daunting throughout our lives, but it seems we do a pretty good job of ignoring this fact for the most part. It is not just that we ignore the sheer fact that we are going to die one day, it is that we usually comfort ourselves by thinking that death, thought certain, will not meet us in the near future. Near future is here loosely defined. It can mean: at least 5 years, or at least 20.
Crucially, it has to be long enough to make our current projects worthwhile to us. When thinking about whether or not to learn a new language, meet a new partner or move to a different city, we assume quite naturally that such a step will enhance our lives, we do not normally consider that we might die before being able to enjoy the fruits of such an effort. We do not think that it is too late for us to engage in such an activity. It is this innocence that much of our lives depends on and that we loose when we have to face the prospect of dying soon. This real prospect of death is frightening. Once this naiveté is lost, life is only towards death.