On death and life – Part three

The death of those we love. The death of those we don’t love. Now death in life, death in ways we’d never imagine. For many people, maybe for all of us in different ways, death dealing situations have taken hold. They’re an ever present reality. They’re prison walls, the walls of the tomb.

Think of the young married couple who find that their love, once rich and exciting, is slowly drying up into mere observance with all its hypocrisy and lies, the little niggles unresolved. He escapes in his office and seeks refuge in other people. She turns her back and channels her energy into the children and going to the gym. In their apathy to each other, they’ve become dry bones. That’s death. Do you know such a couple?

Or think of the woman who suffers the death of her husband, deeply loved, and begins in her suffering to shrivel up as a person never to be the same again. Well, that’s death too. Do you know such a woman?

Or think of the man who, however successful he is in a material sense, still finds life less and less fulfilling in a way he can’t even explain. Whatever he really wants, he seems to get less and less of it – but he doesn’t know what he really wants. Death. Do you know him?

Or think of the girl who dreams of marriage, children and security and who gets all that and a good job too by the age of 21. But she suddenly realises that what she’s always dreamed of, which she has, leaves her still unsatisfied and empty, with the yawning gulf of many years still before her. Do you know her in her death?

Or think of the boy, still at school, who suddenly realises he’s not as clever as everyone expects him to be so that he feels a failure. He begins to skip school and refuses to conform as a desperate way of validating himself. Of course he ends up in trouble. Poor kid, that’s his death. Do you know such a boy?

Or think of the girl with two children by different men who won’t pay their maintenance so she has to work all hours. She leaves the kids with her mother for much of the time and, in desperation, latches on to other men – fruitlessly. She sees herself getting thinner, her temper shorter, her hair more strangled, her mouth more tortured. She can do nothing about it. She’s already in the tomb. Do you know such a mother?

And so it goes on. In these simple examples, we have a different theology of death, death in our lives as they are, death in the present, death in life. It doesn’t kill the body but it’s still death dealing. It injures, separates and destroys. There are many causes. Maybe we’ve spent too much of our lives in doing – taking charge, making money, paying the school fees, the school run day in day out, and much more – with the result that our sensitive interior life, our spiritual life, is stifled, perhaps even considered a weakness. Or maybe we’ve lived our lives on the level of superficial romantic dreams and have never really thought about who we truly are. Maybe we’ve lived in a state of dependence on others and so have never allowed the positive, creative parts of ourselves to burgeon. Maybe we’ve been taught that we don’t get what we haven’t earned – so that love, for example, needs to be earned. Maybe we feel dominated by the voice of our own insignificance, our low self-esteem, in which a small, dark fraction of ourselves becomes the whole picture we have of ourselves. Maybe we feel that being loveable depends on meeting the expectations of others, so that love depends upon what we do rather than who we are. All or any of that is the broad road of destruction. The problem is to find a way
through which everything that’s death dealing for us can be transformed into what’s life giving and how, in all our suffering, we can be raised and transformed.

There’s a song by John Lennon which expresses all our cries. It’s called ‘Mother’. “Mother”, he says, “you had me, but I never had you. I just gotta tell you goodbye. Father, you left me, but I never left you. I needed you. But you didn’t need me. I just gotta tell you goodbye.” And then the anguished cry from the heart: “Daddy come home. Mummy don’t go.” There’s a lovely little poem too written by one of my former pupils, Grace Ann Cameron, which appears in ‘The Twisted Web’, a book of poems on poverty I edited once. It reads: “From the first you possessed no meaning in my life… You are one less present to buy yearly. If I meet you, will you know me? Can I know you who never spoke one word of love? Did you say to the lawyer, ‘That’s not mine to support’? Did you? You not being here has been a blank space which you’ve passed on to me.”

You know people, we’re worth more – all of us – than this.

Go safely, then – until the next time.
Being yourself from the boundary: You don’t need role models. You’re not a copycat. You don’t need to be like anyone – except you.

Barbados Advocate

Mailing Address:
Advocate Publishers (2000) Inc
Fontabelle, St. Michael, Barbados

Phone: (246) 467-2000
Fax: (246) 434-2020 / (246) 434-1000