Thursday, February 08, 2018


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There’s a once in a lifetime event that has many euphemisms attached to it. It’s been described as popping your clogs, pushing up daisies, being promoted to glory, biting the dust, buying the farm, kicking the bucket, or riding the pale horse. We even have euphemisms for our furry friends. We put them to sleep or put them down.

I’m sure you’ve figured it out. I’m writing about death, that once in a lifetime event that the Bible calls, also euphemistically, the last enemy.

I read a recent obituary in the Gazette about a 103 old person whose friends reported that the deceased’s passing was “unexpected.” Unexpected? The deceased must have been a wonderful person and will undoubtedly be missed, but the idea that death at 103 would be unexpected is hard for me to fathom.

It’s been like this for ages. In the Old Testament, subjects of some kings had to address them with the phrase, “Oh king, live forever.” (Daniel 3:9) I’ll bet the satraps and seers must have rolled their eyes when they said it.

I remember attending a meeting years ago in a corporate setting. The young turks were  puffing out their chests, desperately scrambling up the ladder of success, It was pathetic. I sat silently for a while until someone  asked me, “What do you think, Dillon?” I couldn’t help myself. “Do you realize that every person in this room is going to die?” Granted, it was a career limiting move, but it did end a pointless meeting.

Of course, we don’t want to die, but most of us accept death’s reality. That, however, is not always the case. I recently read that a few Silicon Valley bigwigs are spending a lot of money trying to solve the death problem. Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, is  pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into “life-extension therapies.” PayPal’s Peter Thiel, who has described death as “a terrible, terrible thing,” is spending millions in his effort to put death out to pasture.

My youngest son and I have talked about Ellison, Thiel, and others involved in this search. He seems to like their ideas. Me? The idea of a cure for death begs a couple of very important questions. First, how much would it cost  the rest of us if they ever did manage to figure it out? I don’t think they’d give it to us out of the goodness of their hearts. It would probably cost a pretty penny, which would make the haunting lyrics of the old Bahamian lullaby a sad reality: “If life was a thing that money could buy, then the rich would live and the poor would die.”

The second question is also very important. Would we want to live in this fallen world with an eternally alive Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? Not me! No way! I’d be looking for the exit, screaming “Stop the world, I want to get off.”

The dream of staving of death isn’t new. One of my all-time favorite movies is “On Borrowed Time,” a 1939 film about a grandfather who has an appointment with death in the person of a man named Mr. Brink. Gramps is worried about his orphaned grandson, Pud, and wants to protect him at all costs. One event leads to another until he discovers that by sending Mr. Brink up into an apple tree outside his house, Mr. Brink cannot come down to ply his deadly trade. No one can die. Next, Pud is tricked into trying to climb the tree and falls. He’s paralyzed, doomed to spend an earthly eternity in a wheelchair. Gramps then realizes his error and comes to the conclusion that death is the only humane avenue of escape for Pud. He relents and allows Mr. Brink to come down. The movie ends with Pud shedding the wheelchair and walking into a far better  eternity with Gramps.

I once had the opportunity to speak to a group of workers who had a contractual right to “stay on the clock” on any given payday if their checks weren’t being made available to them. I asked them if they would make that same demand for another wage they’d earned. “How many of you guys are prepared to storm the gates of heaven to demand the wages of the sins you worked so hard in life to earn?”

I got no takers.

I’m seventy-five. I have no illusions. Mr. Brink is waiting in the wings for me. That’s alright. There’s also an eternity beyond and I’m told that the rewards that await me are wonderful and they’re free.  So,  when that day comes, I’m going the old fashioned way. I’m just going to listen to the advice of my Counsel and lean on the mercy of the High Court.

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