Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A thought regarding, well...death. Don't worry, it's not morbid or anything :-) Wait, can you talk about death without being morbid?

RJ Neuhaus, a known Political Theologian died on January 9th. Having previously experienced a "near death" experience at an earlier time, he commented: “Be assured that I neither fear to die nor refuse to live. If it is to die, all that has been is but a slight intimation of what is to be. If it is to live, there is much I hope to do in the interim.”

"A slight intimation" Wow...I love that.

First I'll state the obvious: Everybody dies. Being born guarantees that. My opinion: It is the manner in which we live the defines us, not the manner in which, or when we die. I know somebody famous probably wrote that long ago, but never the less, I believe it.

That being said, it's nice to hear from someone that has been to the edge, looked behind the curtain, and is not afraid of what lies on the other side. This is not an uncommon sentiment among those that have been there.

My Dad, still alive and well in Oregon, has told me a story many times that is similar to other accounts I have heard or read over the years related to near-death experiences. When he was a young man, he was fishing in a river (you wonder where I got that bug from?) he fell in and a rock knocked him unconscious. As he lay drowning and drifting in the river, he found himself climbing a long staircase around a slow bend towards a bright light. He was steps away from the light when he was snapped back to reality as my Uncle Emmit pulled him from the water and revived him. His feeling is that if he had made it to the light, that he would have moved on and passed away from this life. The event has comforted him through the years and I'm sure his tale was meant to comfort me, though I don't recall what the occasion was or why I needed comfort at the time. When he was shot accidentally in a junk yard on "rat patrol" as a somewhat older, but still young man, he was not afraid to die, and when he went to Vietnam in 1967 and was being attacked by the North Vietnamese during the Tet Offensive in 1968, he again did not fear death. As he approaches a more ripe old age and undoubtedly moves toward a "traditional" demise from a chronological perspective (as we all do every day), I doubt he fears it now.

Here is a link to a very good Op-Ed by David Brooks on Neuhaus and his musings and experience related to this topic if you care to read on...


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