On Death

Posted by on Jul 23, 2012 in Health, Product Reviews, Theology | 0 comments

I’ve been reading the collected works of Nora Ephron lately. She died last month and I have been (morbidly, sadly, nostalgically) drawn to her. I want to watch When Harry Met Sally all the time and am tempted to try to watch Silkwood. Thankfully, my local library has quite a few things to grab and devour at home. Heartburn has been opened, thoroughly enjoyed and returned. I Feel Bad About My Neck and other thoughts on being a woman is still in my hands, but the end discovered.

Given all the craziness of this past weekend and the fact that I am reading all of this after the author has, herself, died, I quite appreciated her thoughts about it all. Here’s a taste for you:

“Before you get sick, you have absolutely no idea of how you’re going to feel once you do. You can imagine you’ll be brave, but it’s just as possible you’ll be terrified. You can hope that you’ll find a way to accept death, but you could just as easily end up raging against it. You have no idea what your particular prognosis is going to be, or how you’ll react to it, or what options you’ll have. You have no clue whether you will ever even know the truth about your prognosis, because the real question is, What is the truth, and who is going to tell us, and are we even going to want to hear it?”

I loved this. I could probably quote anything from her book and follow it with a proclamation of love, but this seemed so fitting for the things that have been rolling around in my mind.

Given the national and international response to the stories that are floating around the internet and pouring out of people’s fingers onto blogs and comment sections everywhere about the reaction to what happened in a darkened screening room, you would think that no one agrees with Nora. You would surmise that everyone is saying that they know exactly how they will respond to staring down death and, in this particular case, a mad man. There is, of course, always the hope for bravery and the general idea of heroism as well.

Most nights, while trying to fall asleep, I hear faint sounds that always, without fail, make me believe that someone is breaking in to our house. I lay there, suddenly wide awake, attempting to decipher if the dull thud I just heard was the neighbor’s car door shutting, or someone knocking into something in the basement. The number of times I’ve woken Jud up and asked him to check the house for intruders is too many because of just how deeply I’ve started to believe the nonsense my brain has concocted. He is then so worked up by the adrenaline rush his body creates to fight off the invisible intruders he sometimes can’t go back to sleep. It is these false alarms, these times I’ve cried wolf, that especially makes me wonder if someone ever did come into our home uninvited if I would shrug it off as just another crazy thing my brain has made up or the real deal.

In the meantime, most nights, I am strategizing about how to get the children out (Whom will I leave behind? Should I just get the baby and run to the neighbor’s as quickly as possible for them to help save the others? What if stopping to get her means that neither of us get out at all? Will the older ones scream or cry or just be sleepily too limp to move if I am prodding them to get up at 2am? I play out the different scenarios over and over until I give up and pray that my reactions will be the right ones) and have everyone survive. I am trying to be prepared for something that I hope never ever happens.

There wasn’t any way for the people to be prepared for what happened this weekend. They couldn’t have known how the details would play out. Even the first responders, who have been trained, who are supposed to have all of the answers in times of crisis, were overwhelmed at times by the magnitude, the horror, the amount of information flying into their hands that needed to be processed and upon which they must immediately act. I have heard that one of the dispatchers did a truly phenomenal job mutual-aiding EMS workers and even providing direction for the incident commander. She should be highly praised. You can’t teach someone how to remain that calm under that much pressure. It’s super-natural. It’s heroic. But not everyone has that kind of clarity of mind, especially when you are knee deep in the mire of the situation. Especially when the bullets are flying at you.

Heroism then is rare. We aren’t all heroes, but no one will get to escape death forever. No one will get to look death in the face every time and walk away unscathed. It is coming, even for the heroes.

Then what? That depends on what you believe. Not that what you believe will magically come true for you and we can each have our own version of the afterlife. Not at all. There are only two outcomes, but what you believe determines the outcome because that which you believe about Jesus Christ has efficacy for your soul. Jesus Christ died and rose again for our sins. Trusting in this truth grants eternal life. Unbelief keeps one from life. Basic. Every other belief system in the world says that you have to do better, be better, work harder, make yourself into something and hope that you’ve done enough by the time you die. This offer, of eternal life on no merit of your own, without any work on your part, is unique. The uniqueness is part of why I believe it to be true. I hope you will believe too.

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