THE ART OF DYING

DEATH, DYING, AND GRIEF (3)

[This is the third in a series of blogs on death, dying, and grief. These blogs are presented with a focus on our GriefShare ministry for those suffering death and loss. The blogs in general are educational for those who face life and death - that is all of us.]

          “There’ll come a time when all your hopes are fading

When things that seemed so very plain become an awful pain

          Searching for the truth among the dying

          And answered when you have learned the art of dying.” 

                                                   -George Harrison

The last I heard there were about six billion people living on Mother Earth. About one hundred million of these die every year. That’s about 275,000 deaths a day. Some succumb at home, some in accidents, some in war. And tomorrow another 275,000 will meet their fate. Over 75%, however, will be processed out of existence through the crowded corridors of our busy institutions.

Wherever, however death comes, we try to handle it with calm, efficient dispatch. Death in America is no longer a metaphysical mystery of summons from the Divine. Rather, it is an engineering problem for death’s managers – the physicians, morticians, statisticians, charged in supervising nature’s planned obsolescence. For the nation that designed the disposable diaper and the no-deposit beer bottle, the dead are only a bit more troublesome than other forms of human waste.

Such a description as that above may be so for those who are in daily proximity with death. But, for the most of us, NOT SO. Death is not a routine event to be followed through in the proper sequence with mimeographed form in hand. Death is tremendously significant for us. It is amazing how our lives are literally focused on the death of our physical bodies.

To live is to wonder about life. And life includes death and dying. What does death mean to you? and why even raise such a question?

·      Why deal with our experience/awareness (or lack of it) of death and dying?

·      What is the value in brushing shoulders with the Grim Reaper, and hearing the swish of his scythe, feeling the chill of his breath?

As I write, I realize I am on the back side of a pilgrimage that began back in 1967. That’s when I really started to encounter the reality of finitude. I had pneumonia and was confined to bed for a month. The first week of that was great. I slept. The second week was – super: I read a lot. The third week was – eh? The fourth week – really bad! But during the last two weeks I had one of the first original theological insights I had ever had. (This insight had already been realized by Soren Kierkegaard, the Apostle Paul and others, but I only thought of them later). What can I say? Great minds think alike! My insight that focuses on death is as follows:

We are meant to enjoy life. This is not selfish – to want to live a happier, fuller life. In fact, when we embrace ourselves in a loving manner there is the possibility of lovingly embracing others in our lives and in our society. It has been rightly said that a world of peace, love, and harmony begins first within each of us. We are meant to be individuals who are involved in the process of becoming creators of freedom, love, and acceptance. When we are not involved in this process, we are rejecting our humanity. Psychologically we may speak of that rejection as avoidance. Rudolf Bultmann, a famous theologian, said that the things that people have the most problem in the New Testament Scriptures is the call to “Authentic Existence” – being genuinely human. What is that tends to make us reject our humanness – our authenticity? The answer: DEATH.

 

Discover GriefShare if you are experiencing a death in your life of a significant other.