Remember Death

July 24, 1994
Br. John Raymond

	An important topic for Christian meditation is what are called
 the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. I believe
 the first, death, is a very unpopular topic these days. Our society
 greatly encourages us to forget this reality of life. We go so far
 as to make death look pretty. At a wake one is sure to hear the
 comment, "He or she looks so good." I sure hope I don't look better
 dead than alive!
	Death has become a topic that must be avoided. Other cultures do
 not have such a negative attitude toward it. People are allowed to
 die at home. The wake is held in the home. Death is seen as part of
 life. Why do we fear someone's death? I think it is because their
 death is a reminder to us of our own. And this reminder, far from
 being a negative experience, has been a great source of conversion
 throughout the centuries. Recently an older man visited who was
 pursuing a religious vocation that he had been putting off for
 years. What motivated him to begin now? His brother's recent death.
	So death can be a great source or motivation for us to "get our
 act together." I will never forget the time I spent the whole night
 in the hospital morgue - no I wasn't dead. I was working midnight's
 waxing floors. I had prayed to the Lord to help me become more
 fervent in my Christian life. Well, the prayer was answered - not in
 the way I suspected. I was assigned to do the floor in the morgue
 refrigerator, all alone, my only company being about twenty dead
 bodies. I must say that I worked fast that night. I was consoled to
 see that someone had glued a little image of the Sacred Heart of
 Jesus to the wall. So I guess I really wasn't alone. But this
 experience of first hand witness of death encouraged me to take my
 own life more seriously.
	Although we act as if we are going to live forever death is
 something we have to prepare for. I remember a former policeman
 telling me a tragic story. His partner was shot and as they rushed
 him to the hospital his dying words were, "O God not now." Our Lord
 warned us to stay awake for we do not know when He will be coming
 for us. I know in my own life the few times I could have died came
 as a surprise to me.
	There is a new psychological theory about stages one goes through
 when dying. I must say a Christian cannot agree with at least one of
 these stages. They say a person goes through a so-called "normal"
 stage of blaming or becoming angry with God. Far from such an
 attitude the Christian, in imitation of Our Lord, must accept death
 with resignation. Jesus has transformed death, which was a result of
 sin and not what God originally intended, into a redemptive and
 meritorious event. It is a source of expiation for our own sins.
 Also our death united with the sufferings and death of Jesus becomes
 redemptive for others. There is the true story of a woman who fell
 onto a subway track and couldn't get out. She hadn't lived the best
 of lives but as she saw the subway train approaching she made a
 perfect act of resignation to death. She went straight to heaven, as
 was revealed to another person.
	I know people who look forward to death, not as an escape, but
 because they really love God and want to be with Him. I know a
 Filipino family that celebrated during their mother's death - no
 they weren't happy to get rid of her. They knew their mother was a
 saint. (In fact a person was physically healed at her funeral.)
	There's an old saying, "Remember death." If only we meditated on,
 prayed about, and accepted the fact of death how different our lives
 might be! "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your
 sting? . . . But thanks be to God who has given us the victory
 through Our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 15: 55, 57)