Monday, November 16, 2015

Learning How To Die

In the  Peace Weekly column of its name, the columnist has an uneasy conversation with Death.  She begins with a quote from an American humorist who wanted to write his own obituary: "I died a little earlier." He was humorous even about death.

"Knowing about death is knowing about life." We are still afraid of death she laments. We do speak a lot about 'dying well' and have programs to help. but we still do all to avoid talking about its reality. In our culture we talk, she says, about a 'propitious death' of a person who dies of old age and wealthy. However, even in such cases we forget what we did very quickly after the funeral. In Korea, like in the West we don't find people going to a cemetery to read and rest.

She mentions how some years earlier she had the occasion to go to Germany for a story, and while in Berlin learned that one of the TV channels was devoted completely to death: obituaries and  cherishing images of the departed are shown on the channel, and are popular among the viewers. 

In one of the cities when the production team was approaching  an old-age home some of the grandmothers came out jubilantly singing one of their folk-songs. In a joking matter, they said they heard  the Korean magnolia was beautiful, and the  next time they come to bring them some. Death was  like a friend, but not only among the old. 

In front of the Korean production team, in one of the high schools there was no difficulty in speaking very easily about death. Some 30 years before they began a program on death, and it has been received favorably. In a workshop, she attended on preparing for death with an American professor she was told they had programs in schools on death, which are well received by both parents and students. 

A departure that is prepared and one that is not.... Clearly we have a great difference in the way they are received. When it is not prepared or covered over the experience is creepy. Whether as a friend or as an unknown reality death is a serious experience. One of the heads of a hospice said that in her opinion you know the way a person has lived by the way they die. 

At this point, of the article the columnist wants us to face something uncomfortable, since  we all desire a peaceful death. In hospice care, it is not realistic to think that those who are taking care of the patients will give them this gift of peace. Each person has to face death on his own, squarely and sincerely. Life was a gift of God, and we give thanks; death is also  within God's providence, but  we see it as under our control and sovereignty. She ends the article with the words: "God did not make humans in that way."

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