Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

The more important questions



why-questions-dohle-webHow do we know what the most important questions are?  Well I would think they are the concerns we have after all other queries have been dealt with to some level of satisfaction.  Once we have a job, house over our heads, food to eat, clothes to wear and our loved ones are safe, what remains, what inner itch do we have that won’t go away?  “Why?” is an interesting word to contemplate, and “ Why &%#$!!!!! ”  Well, is even more interesting, since it is not some abstract meditation, as good and useful as they are, on the nature of life….. this second “Why” with the colorful, angry language attached, is rooted in our often common as mud experience of life as painful, out of control and ending in our losing the fight….we and all we love die, everything is lost.  And to top it off, frequently in great suffering and no one seems to be spared.  Well for a time maybe, then, well, we all have our ticket punched; we just might not know our place in line.  As we age these questions for many, perhaps the majority, though often hidden behind bright smiles and laughter, become more insistent as we move through life. 

Some people believe the proper response is to simply try not to think about it.  However friends and family have a bad habit of getting sick and dying, or we get ill.  We also, well I am, beginning to find out that it is very easy to get sick, you really don’t have to do anything. One day, bam! You find yourself in the ER or at the wrong end of the desk with your doctor getting some very bad news.   Endings for loved ones are always hard, often devastating. For ourselves, that perhaps we may die, well that is more difficult to believe and in fact it may take awhile to digest the news.  When we do think of our deaths, we do so as spectators, watching a movie of sorts.  While death is an experience, a very personal one, no spectator involved. Until that time comes, none of us knows what it is like to actually die, or in fact what our interior state will be in relationship to that experience.

People say they don’t fear death, but the process is what they dread.  I do understand where they are coming from, for I like to tell myself that as well.  The reason being, because the process of dying is extremely difficult; I have witnessed it quite a few times in those I take care of.  Dying is not death, though it is part of the process, inseparable from death.  So can one say that they don’t fear death, but only the process?  The process of dying is the slow letting go of ones independence, of pleasures taken for granted, of being ever more dependent on others….it is about loss.  Death is “the loss” ’, so I think I do fear death, though even now I say I don’t….perhaps because the denial is so profound that I cannot even begin to imagine the world going on without me…..yeah, I am a bit self centered.  In any case;   I will find out  one day on how fearful I actually am of my own demise. If I don’t die suddenly, but have months or even years to contemplate that my body is sick and in the end I will cease to exist, at least as far as this world is concerned.
My mother always said she did not fear death.  She acted that way.  Of course she also told me that no one could hurt her; which I knew to be false, but she believed that.  So perhaps her saying that she did not fear death was also a ploy.  I don’t know, we are each unique.  My dad told me when he was 80 that he did not fear death, but did not want to die, he had children and a growing army of grand children, and hopefully he wanted to see more great grand children.  He also told me that when you reach 80, you can’t fool yourself anymore, so perhaps making peace with death and the fear of it can go hand in hand?  Or in the end, old age actually does take care of the fear of dying and death can be accepted with deep peace.

As a Christian, the death of Christ is an important event to meditate upon.  In the garden of Gethsemane the Gospels don’t pull any punches on how he faced the prospect of his horrible, lonely, death.  He was terrified and asked that it be taken from him, if it was the Father’s will.  Well he was not rescued, just as none of us will be.  He endured until the end, just as most of us will.  There are a few lucky people that will bypass the anguish of death by going so quickly that they may not even know they were dying at all.  He died a failure, just as we all do I guess, we loss everything.  He also embraced what was going on, though he did not enjoy it and in the end he of course died.

Just as the process of dying and actual death is one, so is the death of Christ and his resurrection.  You can’t have one without the other; it stinks I know.  So much for faith being a pie in the sky fairy tale, with pink clouds floating overhead…..nope….no matter what one believes, there is no escape from our going through many experiences of death (the loss of loved ones health etc.)  as we go through life. Until the finale death that is.  Jesus experienced the loneliness of death on the cross when he said:  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”….now this was a prayer from the heart, not a man mindlessly reciting Psalm 23 by rote, it was a lived experience, one many of us will go through as we go ever deeper into the mystery of this life and what we are about.

Some opt out for atheism, for many a thoughtful response to life’s bull shit and suffering that often makes no sense.  For others, they come across as just angry at God so just aren’t on speaking terms.  For me, well I just take one step at a time, I hope, I believe, but it is often from a perspective of being in a very deep valley filled with fog, but there is an inner light, a deep prompting that calls me and at times pushes me.  I choose to respond to that prompting, to believe.  Then once in a while I do have experiences of being above the fog and darkness, but then it is gone.  Just enough to keep me going I guess….though as I age they seem to be more far apart but more intense when I do have them.

Faith, hope and love….it is good to remember that love is what last. Faith and hope will come to an end.  Love, never.


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