Recently I heard someone mention that they think of death as the "great equalizer" and to some extent I agree. I don't want to give "death" credit for anything good as death is the opposite of life and life is from God and death is merely the absence of life. However, death has come to us in such a way that can now save us as it has come to us in perfect charity. Everyone must die. True enough. But the manner of death makes all the difference.
Oh no! Death has been mentioned. Eerie uncomfortable silence...subject change...weather is discussed. This is what I find so fascinating about a full Church on Ash Wednesday for people to stand in line and be told they are going to die while a fellow mortal rubs black ashes on their heads. In a sense, "rubbing it in." What is going on here? A phenomenon not easily understood or explained. I'll try.
God is always able to take terrible things and make them beautiful again. He is able to redeem the human race via terrible execution....through dying...He rises...through death He gives life. Sincere souls are fans of reality, truth and not avoiding things for the sake of preserving fantasy. We like being told the truth. Even people who claim to not like the "cold, hard, truth" are lying...and don't believe their own lie. What they mean is, "I don't really want to face that truth right now because I think by not considering it I can somehow stall the inevitable." People know deep down that this tactic doesn't work. A sane person can only fool themselves so long...and nobody ever fools God.
Once we've gotten over the initial shock that death is inevitable we can take several problematic roads from here. One is to believe that death should be hastened. People who commit suicide are increasing in numbers. Why? Because, I surmise, they want to take prideful control of their entire existence. They don't want to face the seemingly dark unexpected road ahead...they would rather end the road. This action is faithless, cowardly, lazy and entirely demonic. How did we do this to ourselves? Comfort, ease, convenience, self-seeking have become gods...replacing the real One...not in reality of course but in the minds of those who prefer fantasy to reality. Naturally, there are those with mental illness of various sorts that kill themselves. I'm not referring to them here...may God have mercy on them! I'm talking about those who have been consistently helped on the way toward their "ending it all" by those who teach their children to coddle their every whim and desire...who build up "self-esteem" without ever saying, "That's wrong."
One can also become too preoccupied with death and, in a sense, forget entirely to live. These people are afraid that if they give of themselves too much...if they extend too far...if they exert...take "chances"...etc they will die. Fear of death for these folks takes the form of hiding out in their caves...fearing their own shadows...staying hidden from other people...depressed, sad, distant. These people don't want to be afraid...but they are. This is due to a lack of faith. Of course "everything" can't always turn out, "all right" in the end. Tragedy is real and can strike at any time. Don't think so? Neither did the millions of people every day across the world who lose a loved one, "unexpectedly." It happens either way. Why fear it? I know I can't just slap people on the back and say, "Live it up." As this isn't where I'm going either. But if there isn't a certain degree of "living" in your life then you need to get out more and give yourself away for the sake of others. Fear disappears the more we act on love. I think this is universally true.
So what is the best view of death? The Christian one. Not mincing words here. Jesus Christ is a perfect example of being a life giver who chooses death that others might live. People like ashes because of what they want to be...not because of who they already are. What do I mean? People want to live, yes, as if they are dead to themselves (for their own selfish ambitions...or fears) but alive in Christ. We want to be identified with eternal realities instead of mere temporal realities...though both are meant to exist together in harmony. To be reminded of death and yet to know that death isn't all there is is quite possibly the best news I've ever heard. Death isn't the end for those who identify themselves with Christ...in symbol with the cross of ash upon our heads...but in reality by giving our lives to Him entirely. We don't die. Our bodies may die but our spirits live on forever. Face reality! Look at the beautiful beaten face of Christ and live.
Humility verses pride. Humility says, "I am not my own but Lord I am YOURS." Pride says, "My way. I will not serve."