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Death Is Not a Living Thing

But perhaps the journey itself has brought me--my soul and my quieter contemplations--to matters less selfish and more eternal. Matters in themselves larger than pain, larger than my self--but capable of inviting me into their elevated community: a lifting of self out of self.

Death is one such matter.  A matter, not a being.  Death (does one need to say this?) is not a living thing.  It can be perceived as an ungodly, since it was not God's desire that anyone should die.  Evil may be a being, the tempter a being. But death's not the enemy.  (Jesus: "Those who would save their lives will lose them; those who lose their lives for my sake or for the Gospel's will find them--" It is an invitation to die. This dying, this death, is not an enemy.) Death, again, is not a being; it exists only gegend-uber (over-against) life.  Death marks the edges of life; emboundaries life at its length and its edges; it defines a life, emblazons the shape of a life.  When death can no longer be denied but must be confronted (whether on account of a metastatic cancer or on account of a genuine encounter with the Deity (losing one's life for Jesus' sake...) then the elemental thing itself is likewise confronted: life. This life, bounded by death.  And that might be enough.  But there is more….

To consider earnestly a life undefined by death, a life defined by Life alone (there's a puzzle that'll knock pain into a purple loop, could you but give it half your mind) changes all the values, all relationships; it simplifies the self and time and purposes.

I have been a Christian for most of my life.  My experiences in the faith have granted me various kinds of communion with the Christ.  But this experience introduces me (not merely as a mind, but as a whole person) to the Life that defines life, and defines, therewithall, my life.  Now, right now, my experience now, and all my life hereafter.  Who, standing in such an arena, light within light surrounded by the First Light, could feel overpowered by physical pain contained in a physical body?  But the defining of Christ glorifies neither me nor my life.  It glorifies him as Life.  I am made most small.  A likely and consoling size to be.  I'm set free of the burdens of size and glory and heroism and righteousness, all of which characterize the Life of Christ Eternal.

- For Your Information #6
by Walter Wangerin, Jr.
on May 8, 2006
Unpublished reflections on his experience as a cancer patient