Buddhism has this concept of transitions, or bardos, transitions between one state and the next. When a practitioner is prepared, they can be opportunities for enlightenment; for the unprepared, they can be terrifying. Buddhism captures the same fears and opportunities many religions do about death, just in a different framework. The picture is the 'big buddha' on Lantau island off of Hong Kong, which I saw in college--although my favorite was the tiny stone buddha in an alleyway in Kathmandu.
When I saw those buddhas and read about bardos I had never seen people die. From my perspective they really do withdraw; wikipedia above describes all these stages of the bardo of death--final breath, lucidity after the final breath, then the space until the next life. I feel as though my whole service right now is in that state--some stage on their way out. Three brain-dead patients between yesterday and today, two donating organs, preserved for now. I joked I was the angel of death. Now, I think not so much. That's too stereotyped, co-opted by the halloween crowd. Bardos are more my style. They're more real, too. Death can be terrifying, but maybe, if we prepare ourselves, it might be a transition to something else? I hope?