Two weeks back, I was startled to read an article in America magazine by a very well known and successful female Catholic scholar, writer and psychologist who admits that as she ages her fear of dying increases. She experiences surges of anxiety and finds them very dispiriting. She is a woman of deep faith but that does not remove the fear.
I think that most of us can agree that we share a less than enthusiastic reaction to our approaching death (and let’s remember, death is approaching for every single one of us!) She was not talking about the vast number of deaths that are simply hideous and the horror, dreadfulness and the desolation that so many human beings suffer as victims of disease, accidents, natural disasters, war and cruel torture. Her fear of death even applies to those situations where the person is surrounded by loved ones and relatively comfortable. She speaks of the desolation and agony of a disintegrating self, an intense sadness arising over giving up one’s part of the ongoing drama of daily life.
I was very saddened by the article. I believe it is perfectly normal to fear the process of dying but not the fact of being dead. We are created for eternal life. We have been redeemed by Jesus Christ. In death, our faith tells us we enter into an unimaginable, extraordinary existence of joy forever. The wonders that are beyond the door to eternal life are worth infinitely more than any burdens we have carried in this life.
The oft repeated cliché is, “the only thing in life about which we can be absolutely, totally certain is the fact of our death.” That statement is true and it challenges us to prepare for our death a little more realistically.
Onward through that door!