Monday, February 7, 2011

Thoughts on Death

I’ve had cause over the last year or so to think on questions of our mortality, questions of life and death. I don’t have any answers, certainly no magic answers. Pretty much all I have are a lot of questions, a few observations, and the abiding power of my faith. Ultimately such answers are very intimate and may not be relevant to other people at all. But, perhaps, they can serve as a point of inspiration or a moment of reflection or a spark for contemplation, so I thought I would write them down today.

Many of my friends (myself included) are dealing with questions of mortality as they relate to aging parents. My father died 26 years ago and his death remains, for me, one of the defining sources of my experiences with natural death, regardless of how short the span of his life might have been. (He was only a few years older than I am now when he died, meaning he was, relatively, a young man.)

Recently, someone very dear to me experienced that journey, the journey that ends in the death of a beloved parent. My heart is filled with love and concern, with hoped for grace and faith and all those other things that are the brighter side of death, the whole scope of the natural journey that begins with birth and proceeds, inexorably, to the end of this life. That journey and the lives that populated that journey is not my story to tell, so I only mention it in the barest of details.

My prayers, my thoughts, my meditations, my contemplations – they’ve all been turned in that direction. It is a journey we all take, or have taken, in one form or another. Contemplating such things is not a negative in anyway. I would go so far as to say, in general, as a society, we here in America don’t give death it’s due. Too often both the death and the process of dying get shunted aside and removed from view.

We, as a society, are very much a society of life. Death is a feared and ignored specter we prefer to relegate to the horror movie genre, or popcorn films where it is always dramatic. Death is, in itself, a very simple thing – it is a step on an eternal journey. For me, as a matter of faith, death is a great reunion with our true family, with God, with the great Mystery that is. In that manner, it is not something to be dreaded or feared or shunted aside. It is simply a step on this glorious journey of life.

So, for my beloved and for her loss, I would simply like to write down a quote from St. Paul that I always think of when it comes to death and dying and what lies beyond and to express my sincerest and deepest condolences.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but I shall know, even as I am also known.” (1 Corinthians 12)

We dream, we imagine, we hope for and we pray for the Grace of God. For those we loved who have died, they know. It is a small comfort in the night of our grieving, but a vast comfort in the lives in we live.

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