Hey Hey We’re the Monkeys!

Davy Jones is dead at sixty-six of a heart attack.  My sympathies to his family and friends.  I must confess, I am a little confused by the tenor of some of the posts I have seen on Facebook about his passing – most especially those that express surprise.  Of course, none of us knew that he was going to die when he did, but sixty-six is not a particularly young age to transition this life.  It’s sooner than the average, but we need to recall that the average is neither some sort of guarantee nor a minimum.

I feel the real issue is that western people are profoundly afraid of death.  The reason that we are afraid of death, at least on of the primary reasons, is that we don’t think about death.  Death is something that old people do, and if we don’t consider ourselves old then we don’t have to worry about it.  The two problems with that practice is that really preparing ourselves for death takes rather a long time and given the fact that none of us knows when we will die we best begin preparing soon, and that I rarely meet someone who believes they are old – even octogenarians talk about “old people” without including themselves.  One of my favorite stories reflecting this truth is my colleague’s eighty-four year old grandmother who refused to take two hundred dollars from her savings for a trip to the casino because “that money is for my old age!”

Whether we like it or not, death is a part of life.  Like birth, it is something every one of us is going to experience.  My wife is a Registered Nurse who for the last several years has worked in hospice.  She tells me it is not at all unusual for family members, after placing a loved one on hospice service, to remain in complete denial about their loved one’s pending transition.  Dad could be one hundred four years old, but by God he is going to rally even after care designed to extend his life has been discontinued.  The anger directed toward caregivers after the passing of a loved one can be absolutely inconceivable, and reflects some very unrealistic expectations about the nature of life and death.  It is absolutely true that not only the quality of our own death but also our ability to be present in a helpful way to our friends and loved ones as they transition is absolutely dependent on the preparation we do before the moment actually draws near.

In my estimation, traditional Christianity is especially weak in this area.  In Christianity’s zeal to get to resurrection, death is almost glossed over.  However you understand resurrection, or whatever you believe happens after death – even if it’s nothing at all – it is certainly true that we have to pass through death to get there.  There are no detours, no short cuts, and no exemptions.  It is an essential spiritual practice to learn all we can about the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of death now, and then to contemplate those things as part of our ongoing practice.  Then when the next sixty-six year old celebrity dies you may find yourself much less traumatized.

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