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Certainty of death allows perspective

link Wendel Sloan

Local columnist

My father, who died at 71, told me he was not afraid to die. My mother, who died at 92,, told me she wished “it would hurry up and get here.”

I enjoy life, but know it is ephemeral.

I have had close calls — cars skidding out of control, rip currents rag-dolling me, Mexican plainclothes detectives inviting me into their car late at night — but am grateful I have survived long enough to revere the dying.

Barring violent or natural sudden ends, we will all endure the depressing process of dying: heartbeat, breathing and circulation slowly stopping, then brain cells expiring from lack of oxygen.

Knowing this allows perspective: compassion for children fleeing from violent environments — many raped along the way — equal marriage rights, healthcare for the forgotten…

Given the brevity of life, wailing and gnashing of teeth by supporters on all sides of complicated issues seems petulant, shortsighted and self-centered.

A reader emailed I had “personal or emotional reasons” for my “unbelief” and “can’t be convinced by rational arguments” since “only experiencing God … can work the mystery.”

They were partially correct: I do have personal reasons — intellectual honesty — for not being doctrinally religious. By definition, leaps of faith are irrational. Otherwise, they are not religious experiences.

My emotional leap of faith is believing (almost) everyone on their deathbed deserves being honored for the courageous life they’ve lived with what they were given.

I’ve witnessed religious people being (sinfully?) judgmental — even supercilious — toward those not mirroring their own life.

If we are graded after death, I prefer having erred on the side of having had a little less in return for providing a little more for those not as lucky (despite my physical flaws) in the birth lottery.

No one earns bonus points by claiming special insights into what awaits us based on ancient textbooks adopted by the culture in which they were raised.

In my book, accepting that the answer is an eternal mystery seems quite rational.

Contact Wendel Sloan at:

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