Fall has finally come to warm and dry Northern California. Although we can’t compete with the autumn displays of the northeastern states, there are occasional bursts of rich color scattered in the hills and valleys where I live.
All of the material world is under the law of entropy: a gradual decline into disorder and death. Even though we try to ignore it, all living things eventually die. It is the natural order of our world. Without the annual cycle of death, we would be denied the glory of autumn we so enjoy. There is beauty in the dying of the leaves before they release their hold on life.
A young woman with an inoperable brain tumor was recently in the news for choosing to move to Oregon to take advantage of assisted suicide laws. She wanted to be in control of her death, to avoid the inevitable pain and ugliness the tumor would cause before she died. This desire is understandable. If the material world were all there is, it would be the logical choice.
All material things pass away, but we are not simply our physical bodies. Each of us has a spiritual component, our immortal soul. When we take our dying out of God’s hands we are denying Him the opportunity of making of our final days a more beautiful thing.
From the moment of birth, our physical body is in the business of dying, while our spirits can continue to mature and expand eternally. Knowing this truth can inspire us to spend our lives on Earth dying beautifully.
A hospital chaplain, a man who sat beside many death beds, once told me of the great difference in the death experience between non-believers and believers. People convinced the material world was all there is tended to die in fear, sadness or anger, while those looking ahead to the next great adventure often became “beautiful” in their last moments, breathing their last with sweet expressions of peace and joy.