Let's face it: we all are. There's no avoiding it and denial can only get you so far. Although I was quite sick a year or two ago, and there are no new developments (which would be posted here if there were any), I have been reminded of my mortality again recently when I was bedridden by a nasty 'flu while travelling. It was not fun. But while I lay there alternatively shivering and sweating, I thought about hospitals and sickness, doctors and families, diagnoses and prognoses. And about how the patient is often the last one to know that he is dying. Or so everyone thinks and so everyone conspires to keep it thus.
But I think that's a profound disservice. Why do we think that it would be such a bad thing to know that your own death is imminent? It assumes that the worst thing would be to be dying and to know it. It assumes that the patient is unwilling or incapable of facing his own death and must be treated again like a child whose parents spell out words over his head. Except in this case, rather than the parents spelling L-O-L-L-Y or B-E-D-T-I-M-E, it is the children spelling T-E-R-M-I-N-A-L or T-H-R-E-E-M-O-N-T-H-S.
Although death is not a party, not a cause for celebration or an irrelevance, neither is death the worst possible thing. There are things worse than death. In fact, since Christ has defeated death, we can now face death without fear. Not just the knowledge that one day I, like everyone else, will die, but even the news that death is imminent need not destroy our enjoyment of life or the pursuit of delight in service. Death, the defeated enemy, can be faced and even accepted. Its sting has been removed.
And so there is no need to keep for a conspiracy of the healthy in order to keep the dying in the dark about the their own death. All of us who live in the shadow of death can open our eyes and see the glow of the coming dawn.
Friday, January 09, 2009