Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I Have a Rendezvous with Death

The protagonist of the Bear's novel, Judging Angels, is a death penalty defense lawyer, although the death penalty has nothing to do with the story itself, and our hero does not so much as step into a courtroom. The book begins like this:
It was the day of very last things.

A well-dressed man approaching the street squinted against a morning sun that offered brightness, but not warmth. He knew that today, his old adversary, Death, would collect 150,600 souls and no one would notice. Just like every other day. More or less.  
If a tsunami took them all at once, it would be a tragedy. People would question the existence of God. Let an attractive White woman be murdered and she’s she is a celebrity. Someone else dies of colon cancer and nobody cares. George Able held the proper, unsentimental perspective on death. Everybody dies one at a time and in the dark, and that was all. The rest is just selling the news.      
You know, he's onto something. Every day we make plans, and gamble that we will not be one of the unlucky 150,600. Dad was an insurance salesman. Some of my earliest memories are of the posters in his office, the words of which I would amuse myself trying to pick out while he wrote reports. "You put your shoes on this morning, but who will take them off tonight?" Today, one or two inappropriate responses come to mind, but the innocent child understood.

With the passing of my older brother, it has struck me that I am in the on-deck circle of life. As I was approaching my 60th birthday anyway, I was already getting the feeling that at some point, no matter how I have reinvented myself - indeed changed my very species - there was no denying things were winding down.

I remember once reading of an upcoming execution. I knew that an autopsy would be performed. What anyone hoped to find that they did not already know I never understood, but that is not what jarred. The strange thing was that the pathologist - I knew him well, of course - had asked his secretary to schedule an autopsy for a healthy man who was still alive. If there are things one just does not do, scheduling autopsies in advance has to be near the top of the list.

We have a rendezvous with death, you and I. Our autopsies, so to speak, are already written on the secretary's calendar. Maybe many years from now; maybe we shall not see the morning. The Church, unless I am wrong, used to speak of this. Catholics used to be encouraged to contemplate their own deaths, the brevity of life. I could dilate on that thought, but will hasten to my conclusion.

I do not fear death much, but I do fear pain and I do fear fear. Especially that fear of inevitability, that now it is really happening. I expect I'll be burning a pinch to the merciful god Roxanol if I have a chance. What I really fear is judgment. I am just not sure about the new soccer-program-theology of everyone getting an an award just for participating.

I wish everybody lived a long time and went to heaven. I know the first is not true, and have grave reservations about the second. And I hate it that I'm nearly always right.


  1. I'm with you, Bear. We all should have a healthy fear, in the Scriptural sense, of our own judgment and the General Judgment, and of the particular judgment of others, for while we can more or less control our own destinies, and pray and do good works for others to help with theirs, we know we can't save everyone. Worse yet, simply by looking around us we can see that many souls may be lost.

    Honestly, the one thing about my own path that concerns me the most is, am I doing enough to try to help others to Heaven? It's so easy to say "there's nothing I can say to so-and-so that will convince him to convert, or come back to the Church, or even start reading the Bible, so I'll just pray for him." I can see Father Corbinian sadly shaking his head at that...

  2. I don't know how I missed this post the first go-around (probably in the stupor of the morning-of-great-horror-woodland-redesign), but it is marvelous. Yeah, it really does start to sink in at a certain time doesn't it?....I hit double-nickel last year and everything (physically and spiritually) hit me in the face like a freight train....and that freight train seems to keep backing up and re-running over said face repeatedly.....ha!

    Rejoice Bear.....God is good. Trust Him more; love Him more; weep with Him in the garden more for His poor creation gone so far astray from him into the 'great nothingness', led by a man in a white polyester dress. Memento morte is a great morning offering. Let it spur you to more and deeper prayer, and chanting!....God loves chanting :)

    My mom has a great saying..."everybody has to drag their own hide to market"...yep. Tremble at the thought; I sure do. But knowing how very deficient and broken and flawed and weak we are is a good step toward wisdom. Love Him; trust Him; adore Him with everything you are (go to Confession often) and then sleep well, knowing (and rejoicing!) that time is indeed short in this Vale of tears. oh,yeah, and find yourself a good, reverent, orthodox Mass/priest/parish/liturgy....that goes a long way.

    Yeah...the pain is gonna suck; no way around that. I think of what the good John Vennari is going through....hopefully that'll be his Purgatory done here. I always pray for quick, blessed, and prepared-for (as in I just finished the last requirement for a plenary indulgence....then lightning :)

    It's a call to faith isn't it?....it's all a call to faith. And everything leading up to it, the whole of our lives, boils down to that last breath and what we do with it. Pray for strength, and never forget how much God loves each one of us. If you ever begin to forget, just look at a crucifix, or if you have the time, watch the Passion of the Christ again.

    Walking out the door and leaving town for mom duty for a couple weeks after I hit 'publish', so I imaging when I return the new and final rendition of the woodland will be complete....I promise I won't whine....don't go blind....that sucks.


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