Monday, April 9, 2012

Death Has Its Reason

The 12th Station of the Cross in the Maria Magdalenakerk, Goes, Netherlands.
Today is the 2nd Easter Day here in the Netherlands, an official holiday.  So, because it’s still Easter…. 

In my conservative, protestant, Christian, evangelical, preacher’s-home heritage of Easter, death was always-always-always connected to resurrection.  Death never sat alone.  Easter was proof for what we believed in, that life comes after death. 

The joke, however, was that we Protestants could always pick out our Roman Catholic friends by the crucifixes they wore.  While our crosses sat “empty,” their Jesuses hung forever dying around their necks.
I don’t quibble over these things anymore.  Nor do I feel sacrilegious in how the joke might go in my home these days: 

     Ginnie:  Did you read the article about how the use of microwaves causes cancer?
     Ginnie:  What do the Dutch think about the butter vs. margarine debate?

     Ginnie:  You eat animal fat?????

     Astrid:  But…death has to have a reason!  Something’s gonna kill you.

Think about George Burns who was guilty of everything that should have killed him decades before his 100th year.  “He had good genes,” they said.  As opposed to my dad who died of lung cancer at age 78, having never smoked a day in his life!  “He had the gene,” said the hospice nurse. 

Then there’s Mom who faithfully did all those brain teasers that supposedly protect us from dementia, right?  Besides loving crossword puzzles, she’d play solitary Scrabble with a goal to beat 1,000 points every game, which she often achieved.  And oh yes, she also played the piano and organ, composed cantatas, directed the church choir, taught women’s classes, and raised 8 kids.  Officially, she died of Alzheimer’s.  She must have had the gene

Remember that gravestone epitaph, “I told you I was sick!” 

My brother Bennett, 3 years my junior, died of severe arteriosclerotic heart disease at age 47.  By occupation he delivered parcels in a courier van all over the Midwest, but by hobby he was a photographer and was in the process of building his log house.  A strapping young mountain man, you’d say, if you saw him in his flowing beard and flannel shirts.  The every-6-months physical required for his job never detected his arteries were clogged.  Maybe he, too, had the gene?

To be honest, this is how I think it works:  Mom officially died of Alzheimer’s but in actuality died peacefully in her sleep one abnormally lucid evening…30 minutes before Easter Sunday.  What was the reason?  I ‘spect it was Dad, her husband, who was buried two years previously the Saturday before Easter.  My brother Bennett, her son, died a year after Dad, a month before Easter.  He was the only one of us 8 kids who never married or had children.  He loved driving Mom and Dad all over the back roads of Michigan.  I think both he and Dad were tired of waiting for her and just said:  “C’mon, Mom, it’s time!  Let’s celebrate this Easter together.” 

Not that I advocate an eat-drink-and-be-merry, happy-go-lucky, toss-everything-to-the-wind lifestyle (more like “moderation in everything”), but sometimes I think we get too crazy about what might kill us.  Does death really scare us that much?  When did we forget that life comes after death?  Actually, it also comes before death and may make shaving off a couple years worth some of the fun?

Death is in our genes.  It's gonna happen!  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it happened peacefully in our sleep one night…for absolutely no reason at all.  Not that we get to choose, of course, but what a way to go!

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