A friend sent me this quote: “You come from dust and to dust you will return. That’s why I don’t dust. It could be someone I know.” The “dust to dust” part of the quote is originally in Genesis 3:19 and Ecclesiastes 3:20. I think this saying is funny.
When I die, eventually I’ll become dust, but it will be done piecemeal because my body will go to the University of California, Irvine medical school and my brain to the university’s MIND Institute for the study of aging brains. My fantasy is that after a medical student has dissected my body, my skeleton will hang in a classroom for decades and my brain will be pickled in formaldehyde for centuries. Bil will live on.
The church told me at my baptism that I was going to live eternally. However, nothing is eternal or forever. Everything has a beginning and an end, even the universe. Heaven, hell, pearly gates, Day of Judgment, and purgatory do not exist among the two trillion plus galaxies in an almost incomprehensible vastness. Ascension without sophisticated atmospheric equipment is not a reality. After I die, my body will start decaying and stinking, which rules out a literal resurrection. The image of a heart-shaped object with wings (symbolizing a soul) is only that—an image.
Going to live with God, Jesus, our spouse, the Lord, our Savior, a favorite animal, or a child can’t literally happen. However, they can all live in our memory and daily thoughts for a lifetime and maybe beyond.
I have never met Jesus. I know he wouldn’t speak modern English and has been gone almost two thousand years, but for me, he is the “presence” in my daily life.
In the twenty-first century, I have no idea why the church keeps perpetuating such silliness, especially since it has nothing to do with Jesus’ message of doing agape (unconditional love).
When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, I found myself facing my mortality. I thought, suppose the cancer had metastasized all over. Suddenly, I became emotional and had to hug my Annie and weep. I was not ready to die. I had a great deal of life left in me, but that is not my choice. I was surprised that I was not as comfortable with my death as I thought. For more than sixty years as a clergy person, I had to deal with death and dying as part of my job, so I figured I am good with death. Wrong. The last time I had to face my mortality was in the Marine Corps during the Korean conflict in 1954, but then I was young and almost immortal. Not now! I have to live every day as if it is my last, and someday, it will be. Then it is back to dust.
A bonus joke: A pastor asked one of his older parishioners if she was doing any thinking about the “hereafter.” The older woman replied she thought of it many times every day. Her pastor then asked her what her thoughts were. She replied, “Well, I go to this room, and then I go to that room and then to another room, and each time I ask, ‘What am I here after?’”
Have you ever bumped headlong into your own mortality?
Peace Love Joy Hope
Photo by Austin Ban on Unsplash