CAN DEATH BE A BLESSING?
Nowadays, I am beginning to wonder if the belief in ‘eternal life’ is important anymore.
Don’t get me wrong. I love life: I love my wife, my daughter and granddaughters, my cats, good food and wine. I do not want to part with any of them soon. In the mean time, I am sadly aware that all have to go separate ways eventually. The final demise is as sure as anything that can be sure. This is why many spiritual traditions, particularly mine – Christianity, have defined longevity or eternal life as the ultimate blessing. This is why death has often been considered to be an ultimate curse. I am not sure about that anymore. Here is why:
The progress made in recent years in medicine and other sciences have made us live for a long, long time. During the last few years of my career as a clergy person, most of the funerals I conducted were the kind people would say, “I’m glad he didn’t suffer. It was a relief.” My mother died at the age ninety-six. She had been a happy person until the end. She died peacefully in her sleep holding hand of her favourite cleaning lady in her nursing home. Most of her friends predeceased her. Her offsprings had all settled happily one way or another. Her memories had almost gone. She had no pain, not much appetite, and worse thing was she could no longer play piano. She kept saying, “What’s the point? I love you but…”
Of course, no one should die young, in pain, or brutally. Everyone should live as long as possible with good health. It is possible to do this for many people in the industrialized societies. Thank God. But how long? Imagine, people used to die much younger, many in infancy. That’s why, I think, the notions like “eternal life” or “life beyond death” seemed so attractive. My dad died at the age fifty. “Three score years and ten” used to be such a long life that it was a favourite line for many speeches and poems. Now I will pass the point of “four score years” soon. I am not depressed. I am happy. But longevity or life-eternal is no longer my most coveted goal. Peace is. And going back to dust and become a part of the earth comforts me.