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On Death

Yesterday, I went to the funeral of my old church choir director, the sort of man who achieved greatness the old-fashioned way; he changed the lives of countless people around him by helping them find character strengths and skills they did not know they possessed, and he helped them grow from uncertain youth to a more confident adulthood. Today also happens to be the one-year anniversary of the death of my father. Also, in the past year I have been diagnosed with Cancer, been to several other funerals, and had some unpleasantly direct experience with how the present media culture treats the families of violent crime, so I am a bit more aware of death in my thoughts and ponderings than normal.

We live, we die. These are immutable facts in the human condition. I could make some profound religious or philosophical observation on what happens after we die, I suppose, but it would likely not be original, even if it was worth the effort. And it would be poor, cold comfort to the people left behind to mourn the loss. It's nice to be told that our loved ones are happy and doing well on the other side of the grave, and we might even take some comfort in the hope that we can believe in something more after the death of the body, but in the present we all have to face that death is right here, everywhere all the time. Dying means pain, the grotesque internment of the body as garbage, and the undesired change in reality for everyone connected to the deceased. C.S. Lewis, the Oxford Don and famous as a great apologist for Christianity in the modern age, wrote about the pain he endured when his wife Joy died from Cancer. It was, he felt, grossly unfair and painful to everyone, and it also seemed that everything someone said to him showed how little they understood the situation. If so great an optimist as Lewis felt this way during the passing of his wife, we should not be surprised that anyone else would feel the same suffering.

Yet for all of that, I cannot accept the notion that death should be the focus of a person's life. We are born and we must die, yes, but all that happens in between those events is of tremendous importance. Indeed, all of History comes down to men and women choosing ways to use their opportunities to act in ways that change Reality. Even when they sometimes had to die to do so. And many times, the people who changed the world the most, were far more than they seemed on the outside.

It's no great wisdom to say it, but I think it's a good idea to repeat the fact that living matters more than dying. Anyone can die, and we all get there eventually. Living, and living to a good end, is much much harder and significant. People mourn a person's death, specifically because the way they lived mattered.


Comments (12)

Well said.I had to... (Below threshold)
goddessoftheclassroom:

Well said.

I had to read "Uncle Tom's Cabin" last summer as part of my comps, and discovered, to my delight, that it's much more than Eliza running across ice floes. The one sentiment that leapt off the page for me is, "All we have is now." This has been a boon to me when I slip comfortably into proscratination.

That said, DJ, please know that I keep you in my prayers. Death is not a curse, nor is it a punishment, but it can seem terribly unjust. Faith is what holds to the belief that there is a purpose to everything, even if we can't comprehend it at the time.

A very excellent post DJ, t... (Below threshold)

A very excellent post DJ, that makes keen use of your excellent skills as a writer. A fine thoughful analysis on the meaning of life that is also reflective of the spiritual views that many Christians share for a Sunday as well.

Amen.... (Below threshold)
civil behavior:

Amen.

Well written. I alwa... (Below threshold)

Well written.
I always heard that on ones headstone, it is all about the dash.Born 1966-2000. The dash tells the whole story, and how do we want the dash to be?
Best wishes with your health.

Profound DJ and perfect. </... (Below threshold)
dallas:

Profound DJ and perfect.

Thank you.

A wise fellow once said we ... (Below threshold)

A wise fellow once said we mourn the dead not out of sorrow for them, but out of sorrow for our own lives without them.

An old Sanskrit proverb: "Yesterday is already a dream, and tomorrow is only a vision. But today, if well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope."

It's the living which is the key.

Jim...thank you.... (Below threshold)
dallas:

Jim...thank you.

Good post.I have n... (Below threshold)
89:

Good post.

I have nothing profound to say about this, but "interment" and "internment" are two different words. I noticed that while watching Ronald Reagan's funeral.

Too often I find myself rus... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

Too often I find myself rushing to get to the 'next thing' that I lose perspective. Thanks, DJ, for reminder to keep things in their proper perspective.

Thanks for the reminder, DJ... (Below threshold)

Thanks for the reminder, DJ. How IS your health these days? Selfishly, it would be a very good thing if you were in riotous good health and thus able to continue writing your excellent posts.

Some things are an integral part of my daily routine - Wizbang is one of them.

Take care; be well - remember to laugh a lot. Keeps you younger!

Thanks for the post DJ. Lif... (Below threshold)
bones47:

Thanks for the post DJ. Life and death is like going through another door. You may have left but are very much around at any given moment in someones thoughts. Last year was a hard year for me also but I found that living each day as if it were my last, is always worth it. Keep up the fight and know your worth in His glory.

Thanks DJ. Your post was w... (Below threshold)
Bonnie:

Thanks DJ. Your post was wonderful. My aunt, who is a pastor, says that each day you are preaching your own funeral. I just lost my beautiful Mom three weeks ago. I know she is in a better place, but I'd rather have her here with me. She was a grand lady. You're right...it's the memories of her and me having to live on just memories, instead of her. God Bless.




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