I remember a while ago writing about asking God the question, “Why do we have such a hard time with death?” and I felt I heard “Because in the beginning it was not so.” When God created us death was not in our original programing.
Well today I was reading the meditation: Let Us Become Friends of Jesus taken from Lent with Pope Benedict XVI in which he gives a really good explanation as to why we take death so hard and feel like all the life has been sucked out of us. He writes:
“When Jesus speaks about eternal life, He is referring to real and true life, a life worthy of being lived. He is not simply speaking about life after death. He is talking about authentic life, a life fully alive and thus not subject to death, yet one which can already – and indeed must – begin in this world. Only if we learn even now how to live authentically, if we learn how to live the life which death cannot take away, does the promise of eternity become meaningful.
But how does this happen? What is this true and eternal life which death cannot touch? We have heard Jesus’ answer: This is eternal life, that they may know You – God – and the One whom You have sent, Jesus Christ.Much to our surprise, we are told that life is knowledge. This means, first of all, that life is relationship. No one has life from himself and only for himself. We have it from others and in a relationship with others. If it is a relationship in truth and love, a giving and receiving, it gives fullness to life and makes it beautiful.
But for that very reason, the destruction of that relationship by death can be especially painful; it can put life itself in question. Only a relationship with the One who is Himself Life can preserve my life beyond the floodwaters of death, can bring me through them alive. Already in Greek philosophy, we encounter the idea that man can find eternal life if he clings to what is indestructible – to truth, which is eternal. He needs, as it were, to be full of truth in order to bear within himself the stuff of eternity. But only if truth is a Person can it lead me through the night of death. We cling to God – to Jesus Christ the Risen One. And thus, we are led by the One who is Himself life. In this relationship we too, live by passing through death, since we are not forsaken by the One who is Himself life.”
Just the way Pope Benedict XVI explained that ‘life is relationship’ and ‘it is in that relationship in truth and love, a giving and receiving, it gives fullness to life and makes it beautiful’ that I better understand why death is so hard for us. And why the death of one person in our lives doesn’t have the same effect as the death of another.
The relationships in our lives are different therefore the life they give to us is different. Have you ever watched how parents light up when they’re watching their children – especially babies? Children in all their innocence elevate our souls to heaven and they awaken our hearts and fill them with a love like no other relationship does. When two people are in love they fill each other with a newness of life that they never experienced before and as married couples they continue to give each other life in a way that no other relationship in their lives does. Parents are the most important relationship a child has until they reach a certain age. Is it any wonder that when one of these three relationships is severed by death that the one still living wishes they were dead too – at least for a time?
It makes sense to me now why death is so difficult. Not only was in not in our programming, but because relationships give us life we lose that life when the one we’re in relationship with dies. To me it explains why, even though we have ‘faith’ and we can believe that the one we love is with Jesus, we still miss them so much and long to be with them. It’s not a matter of faith as much as it is a matter of life – and life IS part of our programming. If we were created for eternal life then wouldn’t it be true that all our relationships ‘in truth and love, a giving and receiving’ would be eternal as well? Wouldn’t it explain why no one else can ‘replace’ that person in our lives? Marc and I have a separate and unique relationship with each one of our children and nobody can ever replace that life they give to us and we give them. And would that not explain why we don’t ‘get over’ the death of a loved one? When they die they take that life, that relationship, with them. How does one ever ‘get over’ that loss of life within us? No more than a man who has lost both his legs can ‘get over it’ and live life as if nothing happened.
But Pope Benedict XVI offers hope in Jesus and that is where our faith really comes into play, I think. Jesus will “preserve my life beyond the floodwaters of death.” A relationship with Him will give us new life not only in eternity but here as well. I suspect that only a relationship with Jesus can ease the pain of losing a loved one.
I admit that I probably missed the point of the reflection and took from it what I needed to hear, but still for me it is another stick in which to build my raft. A really big stick.