Ed.: 109517 – Words: 1085 – Audio: N/A

We bemuse ourselves with this little idiom as being the only sure things in life we can all count on.  By and large there’s a measure of truth to it or we’d not all find in it a bit of sarcasm and sardonic acceptance.  No one really jumps for joy in paying taxes in some form but yet if we are still paying them it means we are still alive.  A paradox perhaps.

For the nation this has been a tough month when it comes to death.  Three hurricanes causing death, the continuing wars in the Middle East causing death, the massacre in Las Vegas causing death, in the last 24 hours three soldiers in an advisory capacity have been killed in an ambush in Niger.  Of course, in the midst of all that you still have the regular daily deaths due to everyday crime, medical maladies, the result of aging, and the various accidents of life.  For most deaths we tend to attribute it to some level of fate as a generic, non-denominational form of overall acceptance that bad shit does happen to people… and there is something to having been at the wrong place at the wrong time when death occurs.. the problem there is that we will never know when the time and place is wrong.  Oh to be sure we can knowingly place ourselves in life threatening situations or do things considered risky to our health, in which case should we reach our demise the living will pigeonhole it as an avoidable death… or even a heroic death.  Heroic deaths are usually avoidable but the result of making a selfless choice to save others from death.

What I find a bit crazy to the extent of bordering on the absurd is how we emotionally handle the death of others.  Quite honestly, and very personally, I find more solace in accepting the simple bromide… shit happens.  It’s an emotional sigh; the acceptance that death is a very real part of life… and we will all get there soon enough.  It’s also getting sober to the fact that there are no assurances in life and that life can be very short… and that we may want to “stop sweating the small crap” and begin accepting and engage more in simply living.  Then there’s religion.

Many of my readers know I had a 5 year stint inside my business management career in the funeral industry.  Generally speaking you don’t find a lot of funeral people deeply entwined with religion, yet funeral people, including myself, use religion to empathize with the families of those deceased.  Contrary to what the public might believe, funeral people don’t get religiously cynical because of seeing constant death.. but rather it’s in seeing the variety of death, and the ages of those that have died.  People generally struggle for the “right” words to say at funerals.  Many times I counseled families who seemed particularly buried in the conflict of their religion in finding solace, to have the funeral be a “celebration of life”.. who the person was, how they lived, and how they affected those around them.  Encourage the telling of stories, anecdotes, and the funny times with the deceased.  You grieve by remembering, not by assigning moral guilt for doubting the Almighty in taking your loved one.

The worst funerals for the families were those that had some member of the clergy there trying to assign a religious meaning to why “God took the deceased”.  Once I entered the funeral business I immediately stopped using that one phrase.. the worse one possible… “God must have had a need for them in heaven.”  I mean, it’s one thing to say that when dear Aunt Edna has quietly reached the end of her life at the age of 85.  But that has absolutely NO solace to anyone to say that “God needed him/her.” knowing that God needed them so badly that he decided to “take them to heaven” by having another human blow their head apart with a bullet at a music festival and the deceased needs a closed casket funeral, or in “taking them to heaven” by having them burn alive in a flaming car wreck… or having a building collapse on them… and not being discovered until well after decomposition has turned them into a pile of goo; or “taking them to heaven” by being kidnapped as a sex slave for days, weeks, or months, tortured and raped repeatedly.. then strangled.  Or God felt a need to “take them to heaven” by blowing him or her up into unrecognizable pieces with an IED or RPG in the field of battle.  Of course, especially when young children pass away, how dare religion even suggest to a grieving parent “God needed their little angel in heaven.”

Why all this about death?  You mean, besides there having been a lot of it lately?  Because we all at one time or another have had to struggle with it when it has occurred to friends and family.  There are 58 people in Vegas that have been killed by a sniper.  If you are religious you should think simply.. that sniper was a tool for God to assert his will in bringing those people to heaven because “he needs them”.  I am not without my own spiritual plane with a basis in having been raised a Lutheran.  I hugely empathize and sympathize with the friends and families with the tragic loss of their loved ones… based on the reality of human existence.  Not because of the dictates of some religion.

Yet in spite of trying to accept the reality that death can, does, and will continue to happen within our species… it is also within our species to try and put it off; delay its happening where we can.  Those three soldiers in Niger… is there a way we can avoid more deaths like that in the future?  Sure.. don’t send our soldiers into harm’s way.  Is there a way we can avoid snipers in the future from shooting people randomly?  Sure… mental health and a maybe a bit of gun control for starters.  Is there a way we can reduce deaths in disasters?  You can fill in the blanks.

Death is indeed inevitable but we can at least try to delay it as long as possible… without having to pray for daring to try.

I am reminded of a phrase…

Man may pull the trigger but bullets are not guided missiles.  Once the bullet leaves the barrel its destination is up to God.