Death Has Meaning

I went to a funeral recently. I brought my son. It was the first time he’d ever been to a funeral, and he handled himself very well. Of course, he missed the family member who had died, and as usual he behaved himself very well in church. Also as usual, he had a million questions about the artwork and iconography in the church, who was what, why the priest was doing this or that, and in general expressed a healthy interest in what we were doing at church and why things were happening.

This is good.

That’s not the point, or points, of this post. These are twofold:

  1. Death is truly a mystery, something we don’t understand no matter how we try, and one of the reasons I remain a Christian is because nothing I’ve encountered to this point in my life satisfactorily describes the purpose of life and what happens after we die–or even really tries to–like my battered, beleaguered, yet dearly beloved Church. Those of you who haven’t done a deep-dive into Christianity and are relying on the modern pop-American understanding which is–not to pick on Protestants, but let’s face facts–heavily Protestant in outlook (and I know “Protestant” is an incredibly broad term, but bear with me) are really missing out. So much of what we think we know about Christianity in the United States is based on half-truths, outright lies, and complete fabrications.
  1. My son said twice, in church and at the cemetery, that he felt “funny, but in a good way,” and that he felt [FAMILY MEMBER’S NAME REDACTED] was watching him.

This was profound to me because (a) I have never felt like this at a funeral, and (b) the way he described this sensation, and his demeanor when he said it to me and to other family members later on, and then to my wife that night, was not the way he acts, speaks, and describes things when he’s joking around or making stuff up.

I don’t know what to make of this except that it’s an interesting story I feel compelled to pass along for whatever reason.

We can’t escape death, can we? Not just Christians, not just religious people in general, and not just humanity. Think about pretty much all religion: they deal heavily in why we are alive and what happens when we die .These are, maddeningly, the two things no amount of science, rationality, or empiricism can successfully figure out. It brings to mind the idea that helps turn me away from the dead-end that is atheism, or at least materialism, that says “Everything is meaningless.” If that was the case, so would the argument that “Everything is meaningless.” It would have no meaning and would therefore vanish in a puff of meaninglessness.

Further, the idea that all we know is all we can verify with our senses is likewise fallacious and illusory, since that argument itself can’t be verified with our senses. Sure, we can hear it, but do we really see, smell, touch, taste, and feel truth? No. Bye-bye.

That was kind of a tangent, but you get my point. Certain things transcend our senses, our material reality, and what we can know. Incredibly smart people figured this out thousands of years ago, but no, us Moderns who love to pretend the past never happened (the past being another thing you can’t verify as true with your senses) always feel the need to reinvent the wheel or pretend wheels are useless and create a square globule of nihilism in its place.

Death is a part of life, but death is not the end. Sure, it’s the end of this life, but who knows what the other phase (phases?) of existence is? I’ll roll with a belief system that postulates that life is not meaningless, that what our senses tell us is real, that there are unseen realms beyond our senses, and that what we do matters.

If it doesn’t matter, then kill yourself. But you won’t. I’m yet to meet a nihilist who believes that life is meaningless who has done this. They won’t. Instead, they’ll spend a whole lot of time and energy debating you about the meaninglessness of life, using words (which are meaningless) to convey ideas (which are meaningless) to prove their point (which is meaningless), and yet expect you to take them seriously.

Nonsense. 

This was another kind of tangent, but sometimes when you are confronted with death, the thoughts turn towards weightier, more meaningful things than sci-fi and fantasy, the mechanics of writing, and the stupidity-du-jour of current events. 

Because like life, death has a meaning too. Death is the end of one thing and the beginning of another, much longer and more important one. All joy is linked to sorrow, and all sorrow to joy. We weren’t meant to live in the world the way we do, nor was the world meant to be the way it is. Life is temporary. Through death, we move on to the joy to come.

O Death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

— 1 Corinthians 15:55


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5 comments

  1. That feeling of being watched by family members is common to children, in my experience. Actor Laverne Cox and I, for example, both grew up in Christian households, and both of us worried that our ancestors in Heaven felt shame when we both fell short of ideal Christian manhood.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Xavier wrote: I suspect children’s innocence makes them spiritually sensitive. And have a stronger spiritual connection. Like hearing high pitched sounds.

    —Interesting idea! I think there’s truth there. People I’ve known have had encounters with dead relatives but it’s not discussed much. There’s more than this material world and there’s worse things than death though knowing that doesn’t make bearing it any easier.

    —Nice point about nihilists. My impression is that suicidal people suffer from some mental illness they see no escape from, or regular people who suffer such a devastating emotional blow they don’t see any way forward. That’s far different from some form of personal philosophy of meaninglessness. A lot of life here doesn’t make sense to us but some of it does and as for the rest, I hope, I believe there’s a good and better meaning and understanding in the next life.

    —Sounds like your son had as much of a positive first experience with this as one can.

    Alexander wrote: Because like life, death has a meaning too. Death is the end of one thing and the beginning of another, much longer and more important one. All joy is linked to sorrow, and all sorrow to joy. We weren’t meant to live in the world the way we do, nor was the world meant to be the way it is. Life is temporary. Through death, we move on to the joy to come.

    —That’s some beautiful writing.

    cheers

    Liked by 1 person

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