Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Fear and Death

The Seventh Seal
I don’t fear death.

I’m not saying that as some brave proclamation. It’s just a fact about myself that I recently realized when I heard others speak about their fears of death. I don’t fear death.

I thought it had to do with my view of hell. I believe in a hell, but not a devil-ruled torture room. I didn’t grow up around threats of fire and brimstone. I had assurance that if I didn’t abandon God, God certainly wouldn’t abandon me. Therefore, I don’t put much thought into hell because I’m not going. But I’ve started to see that others’ fear of death isn’t necessarily related to views of hell or heaven. People actually fear death.

I don’t particularly want to die, but it will happen at some point. I hope when it does that it’s painless and that my apartment is clean. I’d like to have some of my writing published, and I’d like to die after my parents so they don’t have to lose their only child. But other than that, I don’t mind dying. It will happen. Dying is a part of life. What is there to fear? I really don’t know. Is it pain? Being forgotten? Becoming non-existent? The unknown of the afterlife?

Even if I had no hope of heaven, if I believed that nothing happened except that my body decayed into dirt, I would not fear death. I am a blimp on the story of human history. I enter, I try to do some good, and I exit. I think that is significant and beautiful enough. Whether I’m remembered in 100 years or not doesn’t affect me. I certainly hope I’m not vilified, unable to defend myself, but if I’m forgotten, that’s alright. Lots of wonderful people have been lost in history.

But as an added bonus, I don’t think I’ll cease to exist when I die. I don’t know how much of my individuality will exist. I don’t know how consciousness will work. I don’t know what it’s like to be in the presence of God and saints and angels. There is a lot that I don’t know, but I don’t need to know. I’ll find out when the time comes. Knowing won’t change my plans. I just believe that I’ll move on to another form of existence. Death is a conclusion, but it’s not the end. It’s like fearing graduation; the transition is daunting maybe, but necessary, and much less scary if you treat is as an event for which to be prepared.

Death comes, and although I don’t know the when or the where or the how, I do not fear it. I worry about what I can control. I fear hurting others. I fear failure. I feel lost opportunities. I fear staying silent in the face of evil. But I do not fear that which I can’t control, a part of being alive that I share with all of humanity. Life is a journey of vulnerability and richness and pain. And it is fleeting. Death is just part of the journey.

“There is no man who is master of the breath of life so as to retain it, and none has mastery of the day of death. There is no exemption from the struggle, nor are the wicked saved by their wickedness” (Ecclesiastes 8:8).

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