Sunday morning at church Father Rich gave a very eloquent homily on a subject that most people regardless of their denomination finds unpopular and don’t really care to hear about. His homily was about death and dying. He also included a short letter on the subject in the weekly bulletin.
Many people, including Christians, have a fear of death. But what can we expect when we live in a climate of fear. We are suspicious of others who are different than us, we arm ourselves and live behind locked doors and alarm systems. We fear terrorist attacks, cancer and the big one! We have cultivated a culture of fear and the biggest of those fears is dying. And it is not so much a fear of the unknown and what lies ahead, but of leaving what we know and are comfortable with, behind.
Father Rich spoke about the effect death has on the living and about living life in such a way that we are more accepting of our inevitable passing. Rather than paraphrasing or trying to sum up what Father Rich had to say, I’d like to share his words with you in there entirety.
My dear sisters and brothers,
Saturday morning we celebrated our Mass of Remembrance for those who have died. Someone once said all of us die but not all of us live. Life should not be a journey to then the weekly grave with the intentions of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in our hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming “Woo-Hoo! What a ride!”
“It’s too bad that dying is the last thing we do because it could teach us so much about life,” Robert Herford said. We’re always on our way to what’s next. If we could just allow ourselves to enjoy the moment we’re in, to learn from it.
Death is a moment of enlightenment. It is that pause in life that gives us the right to double over with pain, without apology, without embarrassment. It is the moment God uses to remind us that we alone, not someone else, are responsible for our happiness, our attitudes, our development, our failings. The truth is that death throws us back on ourselves. No wonder we cry so hard.
But as the years went by, I began to understand that “preparation” is more hope than reality. Who is ever really prepared for anything life-altering – the lost loved one, the lost job, the lost home, the lost future – even when we think we’re prepared? And how is it even possible for a person to prepare for such a thing even if they want to, even if they
tell themselves every day of their lives that they must “be prepared”?
Every person who dies demands that someone else live differently. Death is the invitation to those of us who are left behind to do what we have never done before, to do it confidently and to do it joyfully so that we do not die before we have allowed ourselves to live fully.
Death deprives, but it also enriches, a friend once wrote me. It’s true, I think, over and over again. Death deprives but it also enriches. It makes us more reflective, more grateful for life, more aware of our debts to humanity, more conscious of the meaning of our own lives. Death is a very vibrant thing. It makes us all begin together again, more grateful for one another than ever before.
No one can prepare for death. We can only live life in such a way that every night there’s
something for which to be grateful and every morning there is something for which to get up.
With my love and prayer,
Fr. Rich, SS.CC.
…”Some people are so afraid to die that they never really begin to live”… Henry Van Dyke
Just a Thought…