How we reply to the actuality of demise reveals the sort of life we dwell.
I’m at a funeral immediately. I used to be at a funeral a pair of weeks in the past. Neither was Covid associated. In the midst of a worldwide disaster, demise, like life, goes on.
So I believe now of the anthem that begins the burial of the lifeless in the Book of Common Prayer.
I’m the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord; he that believeth in me, although he have been lifeless, but shall he dwell; And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall by no means die.
Funerals are necessary. Indeed, they’re foundational. From the video games in honor of Patroclus and Anchises to the mausoleum surprise that’s the Taj Mahal, the means the dwelling reply to demise and dying has been, apart from the easy biology of posterity, the lasting means by which each bit of humanity has made its priorities recognized to future civilizations. In the sporting festivals of Homer and Virgil we meet the Greeks and Romans of their vigor, their celebration of vitality and the extra of life, their glory in defiance of mortality—the destiny of mortals to develop into one of the shades which have gone all the way down to the depths of Hades.
Temples and palaces and monuments to the lifeless, in these as a lot as written texts we the dwelling can meet our ancestors. Who is buried at Stonehenge? What particular person seems at us from the face masks of mummies, whether or not the treasured plates of a pharaoh’s masks or the luminous eyes painted on the panels of the Faiyum portraits? Why have been ladies dressed for battle present in the Kurgan mounds of the Volga? These are the mysteries that make an anthropologist’s profession, however they’re additionally the slender ties now we have to the vanished worlds of the historical previous. In the rites of the lifeless we see that they who’ve gone earlier than us have been individuals very similar to us, that all of us have lived in a world of tragedy and violence, of delivery and changing into and passing away.
I do know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and although this physique be destroyed, but shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall past, and never as a stranger.
How will future civilizations keep in mind us, of the twenty first century? A short while in the past, for no matter motive, whether or not it was the peak of Downton Abbey’s cultural energy or some pan-Anglo have to revisit in our inadequacy the Blitz and the “greatest generation,” one might hardly enter an American center class dwelling with out sighting someplace in some type somewhat signal that stated “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Over the final couple years, we appear to have fairly forgotten that recommendation.
Indeed, in concern and panic earlier than the unfold of a brand new pandemic we made new barbarisms. Stop and take into consideration how many individuals died alone, remoted and intubated, lower off from the human race, lowered to a illness vector. Consider what it’d imply about us that so many have been so keen merely to cease having funerals in the means their lifeless members of the family would have been acquainted with, to interrupt the bonds of tradition and custom that tied them to their forebears. In the spring, an actual life horror story emerged from Brazil; nurses have been celebrated worldwide for the “hands of love” they’d made, filling latex gloves with heat water in order that the sick, dying alone, would possibly really feel one thing even somewhat like the grip of a human hand. Lord have mercy upon us.
For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For if we dwell, we dwell unto the Lord; and if we die, we die unto the Lord. Whether we dwell, subsequently, or die, we’re the Lord’s.
We have made demise the summum mallum. Death is an enemy, however now we have made it the highest evil, a god. The gospel of Matthew tells us to “fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul.” But as moderns now we have constructed our lives on concern of dying and so, like the phrases of Dylan Thomas, is not going to go light into that good night time. We assume we rage in opposition to our mortality in all our feeble efforts to easily go on, that our defiance, with all its sacrifices of time and cash and the issues that make and regular life—reminiscent of a human face, or contact, or gathering in worship—is noble and superb. But it is just pathetic. We will not be the youths who run races for the lifeless; we’re previous earlier than our time. In rejecting our mortal existence we dehumanize ourselves.
There is a standard saying, “Find something worth dying for, then live for it.” No civilization can survive if it has determined demise is rarely price it. For what would it not exist? All the work of mortal palms can not fill the grave. But mortals could make every graveside stunning, can keep in mind and communicate for those that have died, and might look ahead to tomorrow. We can select to hope, and so, in a phrase, dwell.
Blessed are the lifeless who die in the Lord; even so saith the Spirit, for they relaxation from their labors.