We live in a culture of death. It is all around us. It is in the lyrics of our music. Acts of war, euthanasia, abortion, cancer, medical mistakes fill our nation.
Death comes for us all. One day we will all die. Of that we are sure. The cause of our death might be by accident or nature. Our bodies are not designed to live forever.
Yet we live in fear of it…
We run to the doctors to save us from our ills or perceived plagues that seemingly surround us. We shun it from our vocabulary. And we shut down any conversation regarding it.
The horrors of death draw us like a moth to flame. Our culture embraces horror shows and bloody, graphic death scenes in the news and movies. Traffic accidents draw us, causing us to slow down and see the hurt of another, or just to look at the destruction and misery of another human being. We watch videos on war scenes from the past and present that depict people dying mercilessly from bombings and gun fire. And we stare unmoved at the flyers of children and adults who have ribs showing and distended bellies from starvation.
We have become a culture of voyeurs. Voyeurs of death. Of others.
But we ignore our own mortality…
We know instinctively that there is more to life than this one we live in now. Were it not so, there would be no desire to seek a nirvana free of pain and a restful existence. We would not strive so hard to fight for the preservation of our own lives, and work so hard to prevent our own pain and suffering.
It is clear that we know that type of life does not exist here and now.
A young mother took her own life a few years back. She was afraid of the suffering that might have ensued from a brain tumor the doctors had found. Surrounded by friends and family, she committed suicide. The media praised her as a hero.
There was no proof of future suffering. Nor was there assurance that there was no cure. Many have lived to tell the stories of their own miraculous cures from the same disease.
But the medical community convinced her of her hopeless situation and provided the means for her to take her own life.
Another person puts down an old and feeble relative, wracked with pain. Consideration of a “higher ground” is not in the mix.
What is the “higher ground”?
If our favorite pet becomes mortally ill, we make a decision, either financial or compassionate, to kill the animal to precent it from further suffering. The “mercy killing” of an animal is considered an humane act, an act of charity.
The animal does not make the decision. It has no ability to even consider any options because it has no ability to reason. The animal only understands that it is in pain. But the decision to destroy the life of the creature came from the rational thought of a human being.
But a human being is not totally animal. A human has the ability to reason and determine options. It is what makes him unique among creatures.
A human can rise above any circumstance using his mind and his imagination. He is capable of taking what appears irrational in nature and raising it to a level of rational understanding, or even acceptance based on a deeply held belief.
Man can make excuses for his actions just as easily as he can set his mind to take on a suffering for those less capable. His actions become either an inspiration or a lesson on how to approach experiences which are unpleasant. He can raise the misfortunes he encounters and see the good that comes out of them.
Being a hero comes with a price. It is the willingness to give even ones own life for the sake of another. Father Maximillian Kolbe is a great example of someone who offered his life to save the life of a young father in a Nazi concentration camp. And his story remains an inspiration to others over the years to masterfully endure their own hardships.
The way in which another suffers can offer hope for those watching in the wings. The young woman who took her life was not in a position unlike that of my children’s God father. He, too, suffered with an incurable disease. But instead of laying down and killing himself, he and his wife sought treatments, miracles, prayers, fasting. All the while he was continue to grow weaker, he led his children by example in his suffering. He taught them how to suffer, and how to be the best person he could be regardless of the circumstances that were occurring in his own life.
And he offered his suffering for others in another way. The suffering he was going through he offered to God for those who were in need of the graces to live. He walked in the path of Jesus, offering his whole life for people he may never have met in this lifetime. The suffering became a prayer, an alms, a sacrifice so that those people more needy than him would have hope.
That is a true hero. One who thinks of other first. The sacrifice of self to demonstrate not only no fear of the death that was approaching, but of a commitment to the ultimate sacrifice.
Time to face the fear of death…
One’s mindset can change the suffering endured from a source of wickedness to a source of greatness. But there still remains one of the most difficult things any human can do. It is facing the fear of death.
Death is perceived as a walk into the unseen. In our culture, the lust for the ghoulish stops as that doorway that beckons a human being to step through to the other side.
Potions and guidelines permeate the internet with ways to recapture one’s youth. From Dave Avery’s fascination with rebooting one’s metabolism to life extensionists who believe that science can force the body to live forever…or at least in better health until they drop. And trans-humanists are determined to combine the human body with nano-technology to create a super human physiology that would be superior to the current version given to us by nature.
Humans don’t want to leave this plan of existence. They are afraid to suffer. And they are afraid to die.
It comes for us all. Even the trans-humanists and science-loving life extentionists.
But the one who lives expecting to die at any moment are the ones who win in the long run. These are the people who treat others better than they treat themselves. They are the people who fear the wrath of their Creator Whom they will face more than they fear the wrath of man or the suffering they are undergoing for the blip of time in which they exist in the history of man.
And these are the people that future generations will remember and want to imitate. These are the ones that are revered for all eternity as the brave ones who gave all at great cost for the sake of others.
These people who suffered and endured until death are rewarded both in this life and in the life to come.
Heroes are ones who are not afraid to suffer. They are the ones who are not afraid to die in the hearts and minds of those whose lives they touched. Such death and suffering have a purpose in this lifetime. It isn’t in vain. It is for others.
These are the ones who will truly live forever.