Befriending the Enemy
Dear old and new friends,
The British scholar William Kerr was an energetic walker who loved the mountains. In 1923 he revisited his much beloved Italian Alps. As he walked up the slopes of the Pizzo Bianco at Macugnaga he paused and remarked to his companion, “I always thought this was the most beautiful spot in the world, and now I know it!” Then he dropped dead of a heart attack.
If William Kerr fortunately died in what he considered the most beautiful place in the world, how would you like to die? Certainly not in some ghastly interstate crash of your car and a tractor trailer, not in your home in a gas line fire-engulfing explosion, or even in a bland, sterilized , disinfected hospital bed. As for where you are when death and you eventually meet, pause a few minutes to consider all the various beautiful places that you have seen in your life. I realize this is a horrible assignment since we, like the old Irish, would rather die than think about death. But let’s think about it nonetheless.
The New York Times ran a survey offering a variety of times and places to die. I list it below, and ask that you slowly and reflectivity read through them, and then selection one. This can be a more interesting exercise by doing it with your spouse or a life companion.
1. While I am asleep
2. Quickly by a heart attack, stroke or aneurysm
3. Peacefully in my own bed surrounded by loved ones
4. Happily while doing what I enjoy
5. In old age
6. By my own hand or being assisted by others
7. I don’t know, and don’t want to die at all
Check your selection with Time’s research department report of 3,244 participants as follows:
44% chose #1
15% chose #2
29% chose #3
2% selected #4
6% chose #5
Only 1% chose #6…and 3% selected #7
While dying surely ranks as among one of life’s most significant if not important events, it is worth noting that over half of the above, 59% (numbers 1 and 2), didn’t want to experience it!
Daniel Francois Auber (1782-1871) agreed with that 59%, and though his musical genius developed slowly he eventually became a creator of French opera music. Like most of us, he refused to think about his death, and when this gifted musician was asked his views on death he replied, “I pay no attention to it.” However, after passing mid-life, perhaps along with composing music for dying scenes in his operatic works, he began to ponder more seriously his mortality. Forced by circumstances to attend a funeral service, he quietly remarked to one of his fellow mourners, “I believe this is the last time I’ll take part as an amateur.”
At a funeral burial or a visitation prior to the funeral, do you meet death as an amateur? Viewing the body in an open casket do you experience death’s presence like a tourist or encounter it like a reunion with a familiar acquaintance? Daily each of us must wisely devise ways or small rituals to encounter death in healthy and wholesome ways so as to befriend it, even to consider romancing our death.
To be continued next week….