Friday, May 15, 2015
We hear a lot about 'well-being' but little about 'well-dying'. In the Window from the Ark, in the Catholic Times, a university president expresses his opinion on the subject. He begins his column with the famous list that was left behind recently in Korea, and the suicide by the person responsible for the distribution of the 'black money' to politicians. Shock and lack of trust was the feeling of many in society.
Korea has led the world for the last 8 years in the number of suicides. When a person comes up against a wall, instead of trying to overcome the difficulty, it is easier to end it with death, this has become endemic to society. Values towards life and death when confused, society will be confused: a sign that we have not given death sufficient thought. A society in search for bodily pleasure is not going to be interested in the aging process, and death.
We don't like to talk about death, however, religious people are experts on the subject of death, when we avoid the topic we are in dereliction of duty.
Since the 1960s, in Europe, they noticed an attitude to erase death from the thoughts of the citizens, and started doing something with programs for awareness of death-- what followed was the study of death: Thanatology. In Europe this has become a subject in middle and high schools, and in nearby Japan, since 2002, they have made it a subject in their curriculum. Since we instinctively try to avoid pain we want to avoid the talk about death, but it is a way to growth. We become humble and grow in sanctity. When we face life and examine it closely we aspire to change and grow in virtue. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, psychiatrist, said that death was the last growing experience we humans have.
Elegance is not only a mark in life but also in death. Not only the way we live is important but also the way we die. Life has dignity but so also does death and we have to respect it. The way a person dies will depend greatly on the way they lived. A good life brings a good death. Nurses who have worked in hospice often experience this fact. A mature person faces death with peace, quiet and courage. Catholics express this as praying for a good death; this needs preparation.
Our professor would like to see the culture of life spread throughout Korea and especially among our young people, in our Sunday school programs, studying about death. This concern for death will paradoxically help us to appreciate life, and work to bring about a culture of life. When the color of white is contrasted to black they both stand out all the more. When we study death we are more perceptive in the way we see life, and helps us mature. It is not only to eat and live will, but the time has come to prepare to die well.