April 2021. A Supermarket. I arrive, from an empty street, alone. Suspicious eyes follow my entry through the automatic door. They record the temperature upon entry. While shopping, any brief cough raises panicked or angry looks that, deep down, are filled with fear. The fear of contagion, the fear of death.
For two years we lived with this fear stuck to our skin, poisoning our relationships. Lately, we seem to have managed to overcome it, to forget it. However, today, All Souls’ Day, everything resurfaces: it is the day of the dead, the day of death. Will I have to return to this uncomfortable or, frankly frightening, thought of the possibility of my death? Will I have to live these horrible memories of the pandemic and fear again for one day?
What to do? I can hide my head in the sand, go to work normally, maintain a routine to try to achieve a modicum of normality. I can have fun, enjoy the holiday, grill a barbecue and drown any transcendent concerns in beer and music. If the family requires it, I can grudgingly go to the cemetery as quickly as possible to tend to the tomb of a loved one, lay flowers and say a short prayer. I can also try to appear strong, confront the issue, trying to exorcise fear through courage.
What I should do, however, is simpler – which no longer means easy: think about death, think about my death, and try to live in peace with it. Mainly for three reasons:
1) It makes you enjoy life better. If today were my last day, how much energy would I live it with? Every moment should count. All the hours I normally spend on superfluous things, how would I use them?
2) Makes you wise: What are the things I can dedicate this remaining time to? The presence of death forces us to relativize many activities. What difference does a little more money make if I’m going to die tomorrow? What is my personal time to rest worth if perhaps these are the last days to see my family on this earth? Above all, today’s great idol is relativized: health. “Thank God I have the most important thing, my health.” We hear this often. But facing death, is it really the most important thing?
3) Because in the end, what’s the point of everything I live here, if I’m going to die? Perhaps the main question that arises here is the following: what comes next? No one ever came back from the dead. Some had close experiences, however, they never reached total death. Is there really something? This question is surprising; The prospect of losing everything, even ceasing to exist, is terrible. Because the worst death is not that of the body, but of the spirit: it is the death of the meaning of my existence.
We then come to the crucial question of our life: Do you have “eternal life”, a God who gives meaning to my life and my death? And that question everyone should ask themselves. If it’s today, even better.
Why not take the opportunity today to address this issue? Today or tomorrow, try to go to the cemetery where a close relative is buried. Stay for a moment in front of the tomb, reflect. Think about your life, think about God, the only one who can give meaning to this tremendous reality. What will be the meaning of death? Perhaps the ancient writer has an answer for us Thomas Kempis: “who will remember you after death, who will pray for you? Do now, dear brother, as much as you can; for you do not know when you will die nor what will happen to you after death. While you have time, accumulate immortal riches. Only take care of your salvation, occupy yourself only in the things of God. Now gain friends, venerating the saints of God and imitating their works, so that, when you leave this life, they will receive you in eternal homes” (Of imitation of ChristI, 24.8).
Father Matthieu Boo d’ArcLegionary of Christ priest.