A butterfly lights besides us like a sunbeam. And for a brief moment it’s glory and beauty belongs to the world. But then it flies once again, and though we wish it could have stayed, we feel so lucky to have seen it.
I lost a good friend nine days ago. The shock and dismay was far worse than any I’ve suffered before. I’ve lost quite a few relatives and friends in my life and a couple of them were really rough passages for me. Only losing one of my children could be worse. Ironic that I had just written about friends here on this blog 12 days before. I told another friend that, with this latest loss, I thought myself a better person. It had taught me a big, big lesson, but I’ve since struggled with changing my mind. I sometimes wish I could go back to being the other Rick, with my friend still here, my emotions in-check, forget the lesson! What sustains me in times like these is my unshakable faith that death is but a comma in the continuum of life, ie. life exists beyond the grave. I’m thankful, better yet, so very grateful for it.
Our beliefs about death are nearly as varied as any subject can be. Jehovah Witnesses to Catholics to Mormons to Atheists, and all those between, have their particular — some would say — peculiar views on death and dying from the doctrine of the immortality of the soul to the belief in reincarnation. Some say the human soul ceases to exist when we die, others say it lives on, that it has always existed and will remain forever. Books have been written that tell of amazing stories beyond the veil and there is strong evidence that there indeed is something to be found in the near-death experiences of numberless people. From diverse cultures, ages and walks of life those who have experienced it say their views on the world are profoundly altered as a result.
Most of us would like to die at home, in peace and cared for by a loving family, but for many the hard fact is they die in the sterile confines of a hospital. Some are isolated and in pain often tethered to an array of tubes and machines. Millions more die anonymously—the nameless, faceless throw-aways of genocide, famine, disease, war or abject poverty. Death will gather its victims by taking hundreds, even thousands in a matter of minutes. Whether we live to be a hundred or just a few years old the last enemy can strike us the next time we cross a street or while we sleep. It’s arrival is varied and can be a slow process that takes months, sometimes years of suffering. It can come unexpectedly as a thief in the night snuffing out a friend, a loved one in a matter of seconds. No matter the circumstances it can rip into the hearts of those of us left behind. It can shake our foundation, propelling us into the depths of despair and challenge our very will-to-live.
Even so, death fascinates people. Nothing seems to sell more newspapers or bring more people to their televisions than reports of people dying, particularly when large numbers of us are taken in horrifying circumstances. Show us the pictures! I’m reminded of the 1982 Don Henley song Dirty Laundry.
“We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who comes on at five
She can tell you ’bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye
It’s interesting when people die“
People can’t seem to get enough of death and dying, whether it comes by war, natural disaster, crime, or disease. Raw emotions erupt when public figures and celebrities pass on. It is undeniable. people have and will remain fascinated by death — at least the death of others. When faced with their own however, they cringe. Our own demise is the one subject that most of us cannot bear to think about.
One thing is certain … life as we know it is not only brief — as it passes us by so quickly — death is inevitable and none of us will escape it.
No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire… ~~ Orson F. Whitney
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