By Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo
We will talk about an uncomfortable topic or an inconvenient truth: death. It is said that there are only two certain things in life, taxes and death. We can’t escape both unless you are a tax evader or a smuggler. You may elude paying tax, but you can’t escape death. It is as certain as the sun will rise tomorrow. When are we going to die is life’s great uncertainty, but whether we will die is life’s great certainty.
Even though death is something expected, we are still deeply hurt especially if the person who passes away is someone close to us. When a loved one dies, it feels like a part of us dies or a part of the world is gone. In a spiritual sense, when someone dies there is a vacuum left in the world because each person is unique. Each person is unrepeatable. Once that unique personality and character is gone, somehow, we feel our world is lacking or incomplete.
We know that death is one of the consequences of original sin along with sickness and suffering as discussed in my article, “Why does God allow evil?”. But death is not necessary, we are not supposed to die. If there was no original sin, one theological theory says we would not die but would just be “taken up” to the next life after some ample time here on earth. There would be no sudden death like meeting an accident because we are indestructible (beyond pain and death). But at the same time, we are not meant to stay on earth forever because it is not perfect happiness yet. Perfect happiness is when we are with God in heaven.
We are not meant to be immortals here on earth because otherwise we would have different personalities. Death is like a frame of a picture. Death “frames” or puts a limit to our personality here on earth. The frame also portrays our unique personality and character. If we were immortal, we would take on different personalities without limit. We would be bored with just one personality much like young people would dye their hair with different colors because they are not contented with just one outfit.
Death is not something to be feared if we are ready for it. Death is much like a surprise exam given by a teacher to his students. You don’t know when it will be given. If the student has always been studying, the surprise exam will not catch him by surprise but could even be welcomed by him. Welcomed because it will make him receive the reward for studying regularly. The student who is prepared knows that diligent and regular study will lead him to an excellent grade. On the other hand, the surprise exam would be a great source of terror for those students who have not studied and prepared.
Christians trying to be faithful to their calling would not fear death nor life. They are the ones deserving of wearing the once-famous clothing brand, “No Fear”. In fact, death for them would be like a graduation. It would be the crowning ceremony for their faithfulness. For them, death has lost its sting because Christ has conquered it through his own death. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55) Death has been turned into an instrument for life. For a faithful follower of Christ “life is changed not ended” as the Preface of the Holy Mass for the Dead says. Death has been radically transformed by Christ to the extent that an old poem would say: “You Lord have made death glorious and triumphant because by its portals we enter into the presence of the living God.”
Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo is the chairman of the Electronics Engineering Department of Mary our Help Technical Institute in Minglanilla, Cebu. Aside from engineering subjects, he also teaches values and Christian Doctrine classes to students in tertiary level.