Dealing with Death

I was reading an article by Fr. Robert Barron about the film Gravity. I am not going to give away any of the film (because I haven’t seen it yet either) but a comment in the comboxes caught my eye. I had been thinking of just such a subject not too long ago.

Here is the quote:

It struck me, while reading Barron’s essay, that Christianity and many other forms of religion) and atheism represent different stages of grief according to the Kübler-Ross model. We grieve when considering our own obvious mortality, and thus grieve for ourselves. Christianity’s distinctive form of grief is, in the Kübler-Ross model, a mixture of Stage 1, Denial (“After I am dead I won’t really be dead!”) and Stage 3, Bargaining (“In return for the mere promise that I can live forever, I’ll believe ‘X’ and do ‘Y’!”). Atheism’s form of grief is Stage 5, Acceptance (“When I die, I will be no more, and that’s that!”).

First I am only going to concentrate on what this person says and ignore such objections as whether Christianity, or atheism for that matter, can be reduced to representing different stages of grief.

Obviously the author’s opinion is only the atheist stage is the correct one. But here is the rub. I was an atheist up to just recently, a fully convinced, philosophical, committed atheist, and I can assure you the atheist does do step number 5, but this person does not tell how he does step 5.

The atheist performs step 5 by never letting the step become fully real. Death, for the atheist, is always an Continue reading

Terry Schiavo

I have always had a problem with this case. The two sides to the issue fall on two extremes that I think miss the larger point. One side thinks that she should have been kept in her state indefinitely no matter the state of her brain, the other side thinks we should be able to skip out whenever.

I am not in favor of euthanasia in general for many a reason. But in cases like this I cannot side with the right to life side.

The problem is technology. We now can keep flesh “alive” where before they died as they had always died in such cases. When one reads on the extent of Terry Schiavo’s brain damage, and it was quite horrendous, one has to shudder at some aspects of our Frankenstein medicine. Yes, most of the time it gives life, it saves many, many people who would have otherwise died. Unfortunately it has the ghoulish side effect of being too good, and keeping here what has passed away.

Will there come a day when we can keep all flesh alive? Do we not play God then either? Will we not already be “playing God” at that point? Suppose we can keep alive a 95 year old man whose heart gave out, brain turned to liquid and his other vital organs shut down. In this sort of future it is cheap to keep blood and oxygen flowing through the veins and as long as we can catch them in time so that on some level the body as a whole is “living”. What would we do with such a population of zombies? How far would we let our awesome powers over physical death go before we let go?

I know no good answers to this ethical dilemma.


Was going to post this before I got my cold last week then got behind in everything. It struck a simple thought in my mind.

Two news stories from the Seattle in the last month.

1. A man is stabbed to death in the street after leaving a soccer game.

2. A woman is ran over outside a pub, the driver flees the scene.

Both incidents happened over a weekend and were on the Monday morning news (the news that starts at 4:30am). In both stories the families of the victims are reported to have forgiven the perpetrators.

I am all for forgiveness and I can see how a failure to do so could eat at a person from the inside out. There are many facets to forgiveness which I won’t go into here but one of the more obvious ones is the matter of degree of the wrong committed. There are some things, like carelessly bumping into someone on the street, that barely make the register of something to forgive. It is as easily forgiven as the effort for the other to say, “sorry”. It is also easier to forgive those we love than it is strangers for like offenses.

But my skeptical antennae  go up when I hear something like the stories I related above. How do you forgive someone such a thing even before the total awareness of the loss has hit? How do you forgive in shock? How do you forgive before you mourn? A little over 48 hours is not time enough to process such a loss.

Even if you are called upon to forgive your fellow man, I doubt you are called to do it immediately. I doubt you are called to do it with such lightening speed that it cannot even be real. I seriously doubt such forgiveness can be real. I have seen talk shows where some mother has forgiven her son’s murderer after five years, 6 months, real periods of time. 62 hours? That is just saying words. I think, although I would not know how to prove, that such acts of forgiveness are more an effort to follow what one thinks is their religious duty to the point of mouthing what is psychologically impossible for them to have done.