Psychologists tell us that, for most people, attitudes toward death are developed in several identifiable stages. One stage, they say, usually occurs between ages five and nine. This is when children begin to imagine death as a person — “a death-man” who goes about principally at night. He is difficult to see, although one might get a glimpse of him before he carries you away. But death may also be a skeleton-man, an angel, even someone who looks like a circus clown.”1 Now that death is personified, avoiding it seems possible: “Run faster than the death-man, lock the door, trick him, somehow elude Mr. Death and you will not die.”2
But neither the personification of death nor fantasies about avoiding it are limited to the children’s hour. We’re all familiar with “The Grim Reaper” and “The Gay Deceiver,” to name two expressions. And though we may be fond of thinking of heaven as our home, not many of us seem to be overcome with…
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