This month’s Book Pages gave me much food for thought. I ran across an article about a book called Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Which is most definitely not this
Still, it’s a good song.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, the book, was written by Caitlin Doughty. I guess she writes a blog and has a website. I’m not…real hip to death. Several elders in our family died over the last couple decades – grandparents, mostly. And a few friends of friends. But I don’t have direct experience, first hand, with the Grim Reaper. Not that I’m looking, you understand.
What intrigued me about Ms. Doughty is that she had such an early experience with death. It changed her forever. She pursued a job at a crematorium after graduating with a degree in medieval history. I suppose perhaps the two seem related, given the mortality rate during that era.
Her book outlines what really happens when someone dies. I haven’t read it yet, though I put a hold on it at our local library. I’m excited we even have a copy in circulation. Shelton, you big city, you!
The book review piqued my interest. The interview, however, really got me going. She said, “Death is a human condition, and it’s perfectly OK to be fascinated by it, perfectly OK to want information about what goes on behind the scenes. It’s not morbid, or deviant, or wrong.”
She makes a good point. We consider curiosity about the arena of death to be macabre, or disgusting at best. Maybe that isn’t a fair conclusion.
The interviewer, Alden Mudge, his name plucked right out of a Dickens novel, suggested she might be on a mission of sorts for people to have a closer connection with death.
She agreed, and backed it up by saying,“I am on a mission! I would never claim to be an objective reporter. Death affects everything we do as humans, and we’re much healthier when we understand this. Other than television and film, we never see death any more, it’s not a part of our daily lives. We view this as ‘progress’ but I don’t believe it is. We need the reality of death to remind us that we are not immortal, and our actions have real consequences.”
We don’t raise and kill our own animals for food, generally. We let others do that and we stalk the white aisles of supermarkets for our meat. We have a low infant mortality rate. A great percentage of mothers survive childbirth, too. Our careers consist of sedentary pursuits, looking at a screen or pushing paper or sitting in padded-chair meetings. The most dangerous thing we might do all day could be to cut up vegetables for a salad. Most likely, though, we have a bag of lettuce in the fridge, shrink-wrapped for our protection. Advances in medicine and greater understanding of sanitation have increased our life spans and quality of living.
Looking at it from a spiritual perspective, I’m not very heavenly-minded. I’m mostly moving forward, head down, accomplishing the next task. I have long-term and short-term goals, but they’re not end-of-life items. I haven’t picked out wallpaper for my mansion in glory. I don’t think about the eternal repercussions of my actions as much. I consider avoiding disappointing those I love here on earth and trying not to make Jesus look bad.
But Ms. Doughty makes me think about the whole package. I need to take better care of those in my care. We could eat more healthfully. Getting enough exercise is important, too. Even more than that, what am I doing with my time? If you look at dead bodies all day, they spill secrets to you. Too much worrying. Too little self-love. Too much beer. Too much sex, drugs and crazy living. The focus of our lives becomes all too clear, often to perfect strangers.
I guess it makes me think I need to be better acquainted with the reality of death. Until Jesus comes back, it’s our lot to go through physical death. I desire to make the most of each day. We won’t live forever. One day, it will be our last stop. The conductor will punch our ticket and we’ll step off the train. Will we be proud of who we’ve become, living in fellowship with God and others? Or will we fervently wish for a do-over?
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. – Revelation 21:4