A Christmas Gift you can’t Return
For Christmas, someone gave me the gift of a virus from Hell. I was miserable with the flu’s dark cousin and those days cannot be measured on any sort of meter o’fun. I had been looking forward to spending time with my family, who travelled from across the country to stay at my folks’ place. Instead of celebrating with my own flesh-and-blood, I danced with Netflix.
I did, however, get to have my own scene in A Christmas Carol for a few brief moments and it gave me a chance to think about my life (I was already thinking about my death, because I felt so close to it). The Ghost of Christmas Present transported Scrooge around the city to see how people were celebrating. Thanks to the technology of Zoom, I had a little video conference with my family – me in my jammies and they in full-on festivity. Via a laptop, I was carried around their house and saw my own kids playing, all the cousins running around, the adults preparing Christmas dinner, drinking beer, and engaging in general merry-making.
It kinda felt like being dead. Watching my family carrying on gave me a chance to think about my own death. And this is a good thing. Today, we’re afraid of death and obsessed with it at the same time. These are the two results of avoiding the inevitable question, “What will happen to me when I die?”
Recently, I bumped into someone in a coffee shop and tried to offer condolences because he lost a family member. I fumbled all over the words and made the conversation awkward. Isn’t that what considering death does to us? We are ill equipped. We are speechless. We are afraid. So we run and deny its obviousness – in real life. But we simultaneously obsess with it in media. We love drama of The Hunger Games and the violence of The Walking Dead. Why do we celebrate what we’re afraid to acknowledge in our own lives?
We’re entertained by death precisely because we’re in denial about it. These opposites are two sides of the same coin – an unhealthy view of death.
3 Reasons to Consider the Day you Die
I’m sure many reasons abound for this meditation. Here’s what comes to my mind:
Fruit 1: If you knew you’d die tomorrow, how would you live today? Acknowledging the obvious fact that you could die any day will make your life more meaningful, more intentional, and more beautiful for you and all those around you.
Fruit 2: You will die. What will happen next? Ready to meet your Maker? Do you feel good about the choices you’ve made against the backdrop of eternal life? I’m not God, but I’m pretty sure, “I’m a nice guy,” is not a ticket to heaven. And I wouldn’t put stock in any science predicting immorality on earth – that’s called denial. Dying becomes a terrible moment for loved ones left behind, but becomes glory for those at the Resurrection Party.
Fruit 3: A balanced and realistic grasp on death will prevent a petrifying fear of death, an avoidance of death, and an obsession with death. Against all these we hear St. Paul say, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” With all the struggles and challenges we face, we are here for a reason and we can choose to make the most of it. Death will come to each of us. The only thing we need to decide is whether that moment will be the beginning of eternal death or a new birth into Eternal Life?
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati said, “The day of my death will be the most beautiful day of my life.” Doesn’t that sound morbid? It’s healthy because life on earth is a blip for every human. It’s only the beginning. Pier Giorgio died at age 24. Mourning is not the final page in the story of this man who lived to the full because he prepared for his death. Pier Giorgio’s life and his death show us it’s possible to live a wonderful life and also embrace our death when it comes.
Have you ever recovered from illness? Don’t forget to say thanks and lift the Cup of Salvation.