I have quite a few things to do today, as one would expect. Not least braving the wild barbarous hoards in Wegmans and Aldi, hunting out and searching essential ingredients for Thanksgiving Dinner. I also have to repaint my living room. I do. I’ve loved the last two years of a delicate pale blue, but it’s just not a thing. Nature has to return. Reason has to be restored.
I also have to work on being thankful. I was wondering how to begin when I came across this exciting listicle:
I don’t even know what some of these are–“surfet,” “rising of the lights,” “quinsie,” just to begin with. Some seem a mere tantalizing first word of an interesting story. “Falling sickness, “what was that? And what is the “King’s Evil?” I looked up “murthered” and the dictionary says it’s basically being murdered. The one that seems most obvious to me is “Teeth.” Of course 470 people would die of such a scourge.
One of the things that has come to irritate me most about our modern times is the business of being told to “live in the moment.” Focus on your breath. Bring your mind over and over back to where you are right now. Go deeper into yourself and don’t let your mind go anywhere else. This, the more I have thought about it, seems not only a dumb idea but a cruel one. If you were enduring any of the above ways of dying, would you want to “live in the moment” as your very life was going away?
For it is appointed to each one of us to die, at some point. We can be super grateful that the ways that we get to die today are probably more comfortable and less painful than the list up there. But death, as such, is for us just as it was for them all those centuries ago.
But what if you have spent your whole life “living in the moment,” and never contemplating the moment to come? I would bet that all those people who died up there, even the very bad ones, had time to contemplate their post-death futures. And probably, as they were enduring their suffering, people came to them and reminded them of the promised consolation of an eternal life with no suffering, They had only to let go of themselves and grasp on to the One who knows they are but dust, who entered into the very world they are leaving to bring them to himself.
Whereas we, with all our technology and understanding of the human body, have resolutely shut our ears to that most precious knowledge. Of course, then, we would cling to our lives now and be unwilling to contemplate or consider letting go of them.
Paradoxically, letting go of “the moment” is the best way to begin to be grateful for getting to have it. It is the gracious passage of time that makes difficult moments endurable. It is the effulgent light of eternity that makes all the difficulties of the present tolerable. God overpowering death and making it his servant is the thing I am most thankful for. Not only because so many people I love have gone through that narrow, dark door, but because I will have to go through it someday. Probably not today, though, not even because I have to go shopping.
Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash