I’ve been following the Ebola news with interest. It takes a special kind of hubris to assume that Americans are somehow automatically protected from massive deadly epidemics, or any other disaster. I’m certainly hopeful, of course, that this will turn out to be a local tragedy and not a turning point in world history. As a general rule, turning points in world history make good reading but horrible living.
I grew up in a family that didn’t freak out about death. It helped somewhat that it was mostly old, sick people who died around us, so it was easier. It quadruple-helped that my maternal grandfather’s family was in the undertaking business. I didn’t myself grow up with rooms full of corpses under Dad’s office, but that kind of thing has a way of permeating the family culture even if you yourself are removed from the day-to-day work. I’ve always loved a good funeral. It irritates me if I have to miss one.
Being comfortable with death is not the same thing as being unafraid of death. Until my reversion to the Catholic faith, death bugged me. And then, with the assurance of the reality of salvation came the certainty that I didn’t need to fear eternal life. Hell? Yes. Fear that. But not Heaven.
Me saying, “Don’t be afraid of death!” is not overly helpful. For the mostly-unafraid, it’s perhaps a handy reminder. But if you are afraid? The logical answer is, “Of course I’m afraid! It’s death!”Fear of death is a natural response, because we are not made for death. It goes against everything we are as human beings. To watch an epidemic unfold and shrug and say, “Well, we were going to die somehow,” is not a natural reaction. To answer that way requires either inhumanity or supernatural assistance.
Could I recommend supernatural assistance?
It really is the only solution.
You will die. Probably not of Ebola, but definitely of something.
That should bother you. Don’t hide from it. Keep working on this eternity thing. Claw at it from every angle. Don’t rest until you’ve got it firmly in your grasp.
Image: Antonio da Monza (Italian, active about 1480 – 1505) (illuminator, Details of artist on Google Art Project) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons