by Frank Muller
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The premise of the question may be a clue to the answer. From my point of view, if there is no life after death, then there is no good death. To die and enter into nothingness is not only sad, but also downright scary. In fact, the more I meditate on my own last drawn breath the more I hope in the first one after death.
The good death it seems to me must be a death in which one not just hopes, but in fact believes. Without a next step in our journey then the rational path (which we see played out in the world) is to live it up and be comfortable now, because tomorrow may never come.
During the many decades of my life, I have sat on the beach listening to the waves gently roll in and thought to myself “this is as good as it gets.”. However, back at the hotel room where sand has located itself in places it does not belong and my pale white skin is now a cherry red, I begin to reassess “this is as good as it gets.”
Further, once the thought creeps into our minds that this is it then it becomes one small slippery step after another whereby, we begin to rationalize anything in order to achieve comfort and happiness in this life many times to the detriment of another and over the long term to ourselves.
Like an animal whose instinct cannot transcend temporal reality it simply learns to beg, borrow, steal or impose guilt upon any other creature that stands in the way of its’ primal instinct. Without a pervasive and persistent transcendence many of us simply devolve from the primacy of humanity to the depravity of our lesser selves.
Eternity begs the question of purpose and if there be a purpose what may that purpose be? This is the question. If existence is random and everything that is came out of existence from nothing without any first cause, then live it up. Go to the beach and for a brief moment say, “this is as good it gets” because this is as good as it gets.
However, if the fact that everything that is (time, space, energy, matter) demands a first cause (which is a universal Truth and is the foundation of all science) then that cause gives real hope because it means there is something outside of what “is” and that cause simply “IS”. That “is” exists and from it comes us and this marvelous universe.
Ok, maybe a few of us are still with me and the next thought is can I just say, “I believe” and I am good? If I just say those words, am I saved? If I just acknowledge the possibility of God. I am good then -right? If I can name it, I can claim it – that means I am good – surely?
Here is where the rubber meets the road. Every aspect of Creation is a relationship. Nothing exists outside of something else. A tree cannot grow with soil, water and light. A fish cannot swim without water. Every physical law of the Universe is intricately linked with the others.
If there is a Creator and all of Creation is a harmonious relationship of an incalculable combination of atoms, photos, wave particles and more…. then we can know that the Creator is a relationship and in fact a self-giving one as all Creation flows from that relationship.
If every species has a means of procreation in order to survive and if every law of nature is dependent upon the other laws and the smallest asynchronous shift makes the total collapse upon itself, then we can know there is a right ordering. This whole created interdependence must only come from the “Is” that itself must be a relationship and is itself rightly ordered towards eternity.
Therefore, a rightly ordered relationship with the Creator and the created must be the path to “Is”. Thus, a good life leads to a good death if the good life is rightly ordered to its’ Creator and to His creation. So, now the big question.
How do I get rightly ordered? Up to this point we have simply followed a logical and deductive reasoning to arrive at a reasonable conclusion as to the nature of the Creator. This is the first step to the good death. This is the fork in the road where one can choose the path well-worn of seeking money, glory, power and comfort. Examine the evidence of lives lived that way and form a conclusion as to whether that last breath is really a good death.
Or perhaps try the path less travelled. One that seeks peace, quiet, reflection, meditation, sacrifice of self for the love of others, gratitude for all that we have, and then – here it is ….
Forgiveness and Reconciliation. In a world torn apart by the separation from the moral law of the Creator we all have fallen short of that perfection and right ordering. It is here that as we grow in the virtues, grow in the knowledge of the Creator, and grow in the knowledge that we must struggle against our sinful ways, that we must make amends for the wrong we have done to others and to our Creator. This is the essential notion of love. Love may stumble but love always gets up and does the right thing.
A good death, in my view, is a death in which we rest knowing we have worked hard to make amends to all those we have harmed if it is at all possible and we have reconciled ourselves with the Creator by right worship and offering the appropriate sacrifice that is most pleasing to Him.
This is the good death. One for which we have struggled to reorder ourselves to the harmonious nature of an all-loving relationship. I would trade all the money in the world, all the fame that could ever be obtained, all the power that a human being could accumulate, and all the carnal pleasures this world could offer – all of them – for just one thing. Love without end.
May Peace be with us all.