I have lived in the same apartment block for more than a decade. Real estate being as it is in this country, especially in the city where I live, everyone here is holding. Not one of the owners has sold in the entire time I’ve been here. We have watched one another grow up, settle down, have kids. The carpets smell like 1976. It is a time capsule in concrete.

A few years ago, my upstairs neighbour died. This is a polite way of saying he dropped dead of a heart attack, out of nowhere, and they still haven’t figured out why. I really loved this neighbour. He had always been so thoughtful and generous with me. He was only a few years past 40.

At his wake—which, for some reason, was vastly more upsetting to me than my own father’s funeral—they played "All My Friends" by LCD Soundsystem. Perhaps for the first time, death no longer felt like an abstract concept. It didn’t just happen to people beyond retirement age; the old, infirm and grey. Someone had died who adored the same music I did. He was older than me, but we were part of the same generation. I had never considered my own mortality before, but now, as LCD frontman James Murphy sang the same refrain over and over, and men cried quietly into their lagers as they stared out at the sea, it was all I could think about.

Culturally, men are less likely than women to ruminate on their own mortality, but we are preternaturally obsessed with the idea of legacy. Some of the most famous men in history (Napoleon, Alexander the Great, 50 Cent) spent much of their lives thinking about what would happen after they died and how they would be remembered, even though, at least from what I can ascertain, they never actually considered how and when they might die. Even regular, everyday men like me retain trace elements of this sort of ego. We talk about ancient, irrelevant ideas like ‘family lines’ and ‘lineage’. We fast-forward to the statues of us erected in public squares, the memorial plaques detailing our achievements, forgetting the bit where we stop breathing.

The very fact that we’re more likely to indulge ourselves in risky, dangerous behaviour shows we seldom entertain the notion of death, at least not seriously. No doubt, this in part influences why we typically die younger than women. It’s not called a "never-say-die" attitude by mistake. Yet I often think about it now. It creeps into my subconscious, mostly during mundane parts of the day, this corporeality. I notice my body more. I consider the very real prospect of its deletion, and that I ultimately have very little control over when or how this happens. I consider how annoying it will be for my next of kin to sell my vinyl collection and my many hardback books.

I suspect this dawning understanding of the finiteness of life is not unrelated to becoming a parent for the first time, in seeing aspects of yourself reborn as a new entity. Major milestones such as this typically correspond with the age at which men draft wills. But I’m less interested in the logistics of one’s life ending than in what it actually means. Though I am (hopefully) nowhere near dying, I find the inevitability of death for all of us fascinating. What will it mean when my first friend dies? Will I die first or will my partner? How will my family and social networks shift and change over time, rendering previously permanent structures impermanent?

Dad would be a good person to talk to about death, except that he never really talked about it. I was too young in any case, barely midway through my twenties when he passed. It was a bulletproof age. I smoked imported cigarettes. I drove recklessly. Took drugs. Had unprotected sex. When you are so pumped full of life, fingertips almost crackling with it, death is the last thing you want to talk about, and your old man is the last person you want to discuss it with.

My father was a GP, which means he wasn’t interfacing with death every day, but he still encountered it regularly. He sent patients off to hospital for scans that revealed they had tumours. On the way back to his car each evening, he stopped in and made the rounds of the local nursing home, where many were in a protracted state of decline, usually from dementia. Some of his other patients were heroin addicts; not all of them survived.

I thought Dad was old then, but he wasn’t, really. He had just been haunted and dying the whole time, right in front of me. At 36, I am already older than he was when he had me. After he died, three of my good friends’ fathers passed away in quick succession. The ones with cancer went slow, the ones that took their own lives vanished in an instant. Because it had happened to me first, I became an unofficial counsellor to them, a bunch of men in our late twenties, suddenly all very concerned with death.

Marcus Aurelius, the 2nd-century Roman emperor and stoic philosopher once again in vogue with self-help podcasters the world over, posited that knowing life could end tomorrow influences how you live it today. And while the deaths of those closest to me (whether familial or proximal) made me question how I move through the world, I would argue that what it really granted me was a level of empathy that I didn’t naturally have before. To make life less about my own mental state, in the traditional Stoic sense, and more about the mental state of those around me. Dad would have had a lot to say about this, I think.

I think about my neighbour every time I pass his widow and their gorgeous black dog on our staircase. He clearly left a lasting impression on the people around him, though I doubt he ever spent any time planning or thinking about his own funeral. My father famously hadn’t taken out life insurance when he died. We all live forever, until we don’t.

It took a long time for me to be able to listen to "All My Friends" again. It’s a song about being stuck between what you want to do and what you should do. It’s a song about regret, about the transience of friendships. But mostly it’s a song about ageing, which my neighbour never had the chance to do. James Murphy released it when he was 36—my age—as a reflection on the best years of his life. What if they had also been the final years of his life? Would the song have sounded different?

Either way, it’s possible Murphy would have written that famous refrain in exactly the same way: where are your friends tonight? This, ultimately, is what facing death has made me truly understand. Your best and only life is never just about you.

Originally published on Esquire AUS

David M Benett Getty Images

Matthew Perry, most famous for portraying Chandler Bing on the sensational TV sitcom Friends, has reportedly died. The actor was 54 years old.

Both TMZ and the LA Times, citing law enforcement sources, reported Saturday evening that the actor was found unresponsive in the jacuzzi at his Los Angeles home. Both outlets also claim that there were no signs of foul play and that no drugs were found at the scene. A representative for the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed to PEOPLE that officers responded to a call about the death of a man in his 50s at Perry's address Saturday afternoon but would not confirm the identity of the deceased.

Warner Bros issued a statement about the star in response to the news. It reads, "We are devastated by the passing of our dear friend Matthew Perry. Matthew was an incredibly gifted actor and an indelible part of the Warner Bros Television Group family. The impact of his comedic genius was felt around the world, and his legacy will live on in the hearts of so many. This is a heartbreaking day, and we send our love to his family, his loved ones, and all of his devoted fans."

Perry, raised between Los Angeles and Montreal, first gained footing in Hollywood as a teenager with guest appearances on shows like Charles in Charge and Beverly Hills 90210. But when he landed Friends, which would debut in 1994 when Perry was 24, he was still relatively unknown. The show made him a household name—and eventually one of the highest-paid TV actors of all time. Starring alongside Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow and David Schwimmer, the program was a ratings behemoth during its decade-long reign.

In the years following Friends, Perry logged roles in movies like 17 AgainFools Rush InThe Whole Nine Yards and Serving Sara. He appeared in TV shows like Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Mr Sunshine, which he co-created, Go On, and CBS's The Odd Couple reboot. In 2016, he debuted a stage play that he both wrote and starred in, The End of Longing, in London.

Perry spent much of his life battling addiction to both alcohol and pain medication, like Vicodin and OxyContin. He was frequently forthcoming about his struggles, and about his desire to help others who shared his disease. "I've had a lot of ups and downs in my life and a lot of wonderful accolades," he told the Hollywood Reporter in 2015, "but the best thing about me is that if an alcoholic comes up to me and says, 'Will you help me stop drinking?' I will say, 'Yes. I know how to do that.'"

His 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, recounted his challenges with substance abuse in stark detail. In an interview with the New York Times that same year, Perry said of his journey, "It’s still a day-to-day process of getting better. Every day. It doesn’t end because I did this."

Originally published on Esquire US

In 2016, a Michigan-based priest named Gerald Johnson suffered a heart attack. He says he had a near-death experience (NDE) that sent him somewhere he never thought he’d visit: hell.

Recently, Johnson took to TikTok to share the details of his traumatic NDE—far from the kind of warm, bright-light epiphany you might expect to hear from someone who temporarily ventures into the great beyond.

“I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” Johnson recounts in the viral video. “I don’t care what he did to me. No one deserves that.”

Johnson says that immediately after his heart attack in February 2016, his spirit left his physical body and went down to hell, entering through “the very center of the Earth.” Though he says “the things I saw there are indescribable,” he did his best.

Johnson claims he saw a man walking on all fours like a dog and getting burned from head to toe:

“His eyes were bulging and worse than that: He was wearing chains on his neck. He was like a hellhound. There was a demon holding the chains."

Johnson also heard music in hell, including Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”—traditionally upbeat tunes. Only this time, demons were singing the songs to “torture” people.

Johnson says his hellacious NDE made him realize he needed to forgive people who had wronged him, instead of hoping for their punishment.

Maybe Johnson’s story sounds far-fetched to you. But scientists say that while many of the most publicized NDEs have a positive spin, negative NDEs certainly occur, too. The experts just aren’t entirely sure how—or why.

Researchers—especially those from the International Association for Near-Death Studies—believe NDEs most likely happen due to a change in blood flow to the brain during sudden life-threatening events, like a heart attack, blunt trauma, or even shock. As your brain starts losing blood and oxygen, the electrical activity within the brain begins to power down. “Like a town that loses power one neighborhood at a time, local regions of the brain go offline one after another,” one expert told Scientific American.

During a NDE, your mind is left to keep working, but without its normal operational parameters. Whether simply an oxygen shortage, some sort of anesthesia, or a neurochemical response to trauma, as hypothesised, the NDE leaves those who experience it with a real, sometimes traumatic memory. We may not know how that memory happened—and unlike Johnson and his trip to hell, victims may not want to recount it ever again—but it could change their life.

Originally published on Popular Mechanics