Sharing these meditations with you also helps me with my readings. Reading books like these, and sharing what we learn will help all of us grow holier, and closer to our Lord during this season. First though, I want to talk about the purple elephant in the room: why (if you’re a red-blooded person), do we fear dying so much? Well the book that I’m reading explains three main reasons why:
1. The love of life
2. We understand that death is bitter, and when we die it is full of suffering.
3. We don’t know where we will go after death or how we will stand when it’s time for Judgement.
So let’s break this down a bit.
1. The Love of Life
There is no doubt that we all love our lives. We are constantly reminded that we have one life to live and we should live it to be best of our abilities. We must have bucket lists and things to do before we are 30, 40, 50…you get the point.
The assumption is that you only have one time to do it and if you don’t want a life full of regrets over the things that you wanted to do, you should do them now. You don’t want to be in the group of people who had regrets before death! So might as well do everything worth wild.
Truth is: we are all going to have regrets, but we want to make sure they are regrets we can live with.
Is this it?
What’s also not being said, is that too many people don’t believe in a Heaven (or Hell). Some believe that this is it..
Hell exists, and yes people do go there. It’s not a punishment, but the result of the choices that we make when we choose to live according to our will and not the Father’s will.
As children, we ran to the loving arms of parents for love and protection–in their arms we felt safe and loved. Their love never not stopped us from being us, but we were all comforted by it.
Lets say you’re a teen now, and you “know better” (or when I was growing up, we thought we were grown), and you felt that those loving arms when you were younger, are now chains. You make a decision to break away, and find your own way–thinking that you knew better. What ever choices you made away from your parents love and guidance will result in whatever consequences that comes your way. Consequences that you will have to accept.
What does this have to do with Hell? Let’s use the description some of the Saints used. Many Saints described the love of God as warm. Well for some people who love and live like an image of God (let’s compare God’s love to the sun), it can feel warm and great, and bringing up good memories (Heaven). For others who hate the sun—it’s hot, humid, uncomfortable and it burns their skin (Hell). Very simple terms, but I hope you get the idea.
Now there are complete skeptics out there who say: what if there is no life after this one? My answer: If could have spent time being a better person, living truthfully, and honestly AND as an image of God–what did I lose?
If I choose to live my way, thinking this is it, and I’m wrong–what then becomes of me after I die? I’m not a betting person, but I don’t think I’ll lose anything by following God’s commandments.
Death is full of Suffering for everyone
We have all lost a loved one. Either through illness, or from an accident. We saw what they were experiencing and how they suffered, and we wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
Watching those who die is a helpless situation since you cannot do anything to take away their suffering. Yes, praying with them and keeping them company is something, but often, it feels like it’s not enough. Also, by seeing those who went through their last moments, one must conclude that it is frightening experience. A person (at the moment of death) is fully aware that their life is ending, and there are no more “tomorrows” for them. This is all of our fate!
Often though, we live as though we will never die, and we’re surprised when we are in a situation that we could lose our life and we’re never fully prepared. When those who we love are on a downward spiral, we can sense death on the horizon, but pray: not today.
3. The Fear of the Unknown
We know that there is a Heaven and a Hell. We are also aware that people go to either location. However, it’s the uncertainty that we will feel at the moment of death that terrifies us all.
We’re not perfect–we sinned, harbored grudges, resentment, prejudices against our neighbors. We lied, stole, cheated, everyone has sinned in one way or another. It is in those moments of dying where all our sins will come back to accuse us.
During this time a person may grow into despair and not think they have done enough, or maybe not make it to Heaven. It’s the uncertainty that makes us worried. We want Heaven, but will we make it?
The future holds so much promise or disappointment, and we don’t know which one we will be facing.
What about those who pass away peacefully?
This author brings up an interesting point to think about:
And if some people apparently pass away most peacefully, this is because nature, exhausted by suffering, has no longer the force to struggle with death.
In a way it sounds like the person dying does not fight against what is to come, but in a way accepts it.
I don’t think this is a necessary a bad thing. What comes to mind is the Saint’s who who martyred. Many of them accepted what was to happen, and had such faith in God that they knew they will be seeing Him when their suffering was over. These are the Saints that would welcome death.
Following Christ’s Example
Reading about our Lord’s passion, he experienced everything. Christ was beaten, whipped, abandoned, mocked, ridiculed, etc. Christ suffered so much before he died. Our Lord suffered everything that we would experience in our lifetime. What was the most painful thing he experienced was death itself. There, on the Cross, hanging for hours, it was at his final moments that He felt his Soul leave His body and at that moment he gave a great cry. (Matthew 27:50)
Christ’s conflict with death represented our last conflict, teaching us that the agony of death is the keenest agony that man has felt or will ever feel. –Pope Saint Gregory
His death on the Cross is a great reminder of His love for us, and how much he was willing to suffer. His death, and ours as well is for us to understand the truth about the agony of death, and the price He paid for us.
Looking at it this way, Death is something we shouldn’t fear. Death is something that Christ conquered and won. Our job, is to prepare our souls and body to do battle to face this foe that will come for us all. But we can’t face this elephant in the room, if we choose to look away.
While this is a heavy topic, I would love to read your thoughts. Does Lent cause you to focus on these four last things? What is one thing you would do differently starting today?