Saturday, January 6, 2007

The final challenge

To be afraid of death is like being afraid of discarding an old worn-out garment.
Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi

In old age, we face our final challenge of living. Death. The death of loved ones. Our own death. Yesterday I drove to Amherst and spent the day with a good friend who retired there with her husband several years ago. Last year her husband died of cancer and she has written a book about her experience of caring for him during his final illness and death.

We talked about death and dying but our conversation was not morbid. It felt very natural. She is younger than I but we are both of an age that thoughts of dying are part of our consciousness and we have both experienced the deaths of family members and friends. Having been active members of the Episcopal Church for many years, we both believe in everlasting life. It is natural to wonder what that life might be like.

In the 70’s Ernest Becker won the Pulitzer prize for “Denial of Death.” The title told the tale. As a society we avoid even using the words, death and dying. We use euphemisms instead. She passed away. He bought the farm. Perhaps talking about dying and our own death helps us to remember what is truly important in life. Loving God and loving others.

Father of all, we pray to you for those we love, but see no longer: Grant them your peace; let light perpetual shine upon them; and, in your loving wisdom and almighty power, work in them the good purpose of your perfect will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen [BCP, p. 504]

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