Do you think about death?
There are several blogs I follow with great pleasure and interest which are decidedly non-Christian. Nevertheless, time after time they help me with sage advice, entertain me with great stories, and always bring me no-fail recipes and products that I actually want to try, and end up liking. From them I learned the advice that has helped me most when I fret about my love life, or lack of it: “either they like you, or they don’t.” (Obviously over-simplified, but at the time of reading I desperately needed something profoundly simple to hang on to, it freed me to be more authentic instead of reinventing myself to suit what I thought someone, anyone might like).
They are definitely winning at life, but awhile ago one of the blogs posted about death and how different people handle its imminence, and the post nearly broke my heart. It was well done and there was no glorification of this pain, but neither was there any hope to it. All its hope was found in living, not death. The author courageously admitted she has no answers, only the sort of questions and fears we all have about this passing into something unknown.
Including this quote by Barbara Ehrenreich of the thought of death, in her book “Natural Causes.”
“You can think of death bitterly or with resignation, as a tragic interruption of your life, and take every possible measure to postpone it. Or, more realistically, you can think of life as an interruption of an eternity of personal nonexistence, and see it as a brief opportunity to observe and interact with the living, ever-surprising world around us.”
(Me: this is where my heart fractured)
This business of being alive for us is so framed by death, we approach dying through living. I don’t know anyone of whom this is not true. When I was younger, but even so recently as several months ago, the thought of death panicked me. Who knows.
We have no proof of Heaven, do we, or people would live so, so differently. We only have the word of a bunch of star-struck Christians, who to be honest when approached through the eyes of death, look batty.
A reader, Renee, commented:
“I don’t have proof of heaven but this reflection from C.S. Lewis brings me hope of an eternity: we are so little reconciled to time that we are even astonished at it. “How he’s grown!” we exclaim, “How time flies!” – as though the universal form of our experience were again and again a novelty. It is as strange as if a fish were repeatedly surprised at the wetness of water. And that would be strange indeed; unless of course the fish were destined to become, one day, a land animal.”
What if our reality is entirely warped - a time warp, maybe? On a much grander scale. Reality is a tricky beast, after all, constantly shifting and deceiving us.
It struck me, Christians aren’t any better at living this life. Successful living is open to all. The difference is in the dying. Christians, instead of re-framing death as… non-existence or re-branding into a truer self, are the only people who lay down our selves and approach living through dying. We are the ones who have decided to invest (believe) into the unknown spirituality now rather than putting it off until physical death. We are the only ones of whom it can be said, hold a hopeful view of death that includes living… “after” you know, and not just existing or reincarnating.
The miracle of Christianity is that death is reversed. Physical birth is a beginning of an end we know as death after life, knowing God on earth is but an end of a beginning we know as life after death.
This verse, paraphrased by me, in Acts:
“But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the ancient prophets and Moses said would happen— that Jesus would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to everyone.”
It’s clear that Jesus suffered, however you believe in him, and we know we all suffer. In this life neither Christians or non-Christians are exempt and all religions or non-religions have more or less tried to address this deficit. The difference in this one narrative is that for once a god, God, came down to suffer and die with us instead of offering suggestions from up on high to do penance and govern better and fix ourselves until death do us part.
Such love has the power to transform life into resurrection. Such love has the tenderness to accompany our pain until that day we become what we were always meant to be: forever alive.
Photo by Danielle MacInnes