We Do Not Like to be Reminded of Death

That so many people die in hospice or nursing homes, away from everyone else, allows many of us to forget that death is part of life.

Our banishment of the elderly and dying allows us to pretend that we will not, in fact, die as its grim specter is longer in our faces. So, I think, that when something like COVID-19 comes along it is a terrible shock, a reminder that all that we have built up around us is temporary. And we do not like to be reminded of such things. We resist it. We cling to the hope that we will be saved from this temporary hiccup, this aberration by some miracle drug or treatment. We close down everything because we believe surely this is temporary. We can not even fathom continuing life in such a way.

But death is part of this whole thing. Pain too.

Our entire culture seems built around the idea that nobody should ever be in pain. All discomfort is an anomaly and that someone is at fault for it. So then the finger pointing starts. You! You who didn't wear a mask, you did this to us! You went to a party! You went to Mass on Sunday! You did this to us. And this allows us to warm ourselves with hate. It seems to help. But that furnace grows cold quickly. It needs to be fed. Constantly.

Christians have always understood that the way of the cross is suffering. It doesn't seek it out necessarily, but we tie our suffering to Christ's suffering. And we do it with love in our hearts. I pray that we can all do so. The world needs us too.

Comments

  1. “On Living in an Atomic Age” by C.S. Lewis
    “In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

    In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

    This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

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  2. I follow Hillbilly with another appropriate Lewis essay, "Learning in War-Time."

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