Beyond the Overpass
My Fourth of July Tradition

I Hate Death

A few months ago I walked out one Saturday morning and found a dead possum, a young one, lying in the street. It was so much the image of death that I took a picture of it, just as a reminder. I’m not going to shove the picture in your faces but you can see it here. It’s not especially horrible; the possum is not torn or decayed; it’s just dead. Nobody much likes possums, but still, when I saw it lying there, my first thought was I hate death. Last week seemed to be a week of death, because two deaths in particular were so much in the news.

Michael Jackson: I have an odd perspective on him, because I missed the major part of his career, the part that established his reputation as an artist. In spite of my excessive interest in pop music, I never really heard much of Jackson’s work. It was not the sort of thing that appealed greatly to me, and I didn’t often hear the radio when he was popular, and very rarely saw MTV. In fact the first thing that occurs to me when someone mentions Thriller is an Eddie van Halen guitar solo that occurs in one of its songs—“Beat It,” I think.

No, when I hear his name I think first (marking myself as far from young) of the Jackson Five. I didn’t go out of my way to hear them, either, but I did hear the radio a lot more then. And most of all I remember a Rolling Stone cover ca. 1970 featuring the cute, talented kid. It’s probably online somewhere…yes, here it is.

And then I think of the grotesque spectre of recent years, about which the less said the better. And the distance between those two images is so sad that I don’t even want to think about it. I’ve said before, and will probably have occasion to say again: I think the sort of fame that he had was one of the worst things that can happen to a person. Clearly he was a terribly damaged soul. May God grant him mercy, forgiveness, healing, and joy.

Farrah Fawcett: Forget that silly TV show, and that well-known poster. Go rent the very fine and neglected movie The Apostle, in which she plays the wife of the charismatic (in both senses) preacher played by Robert Duvall. Here’s the trailer.  I would guess that she’d rather be remembered for this kind of work.

On Thursday my wife heard from a friend that the friend’s brother-in-law has just been diagnosed with advanced cancer of the colon. He’s around 50 years old and he and his wife have six children, ages 4 to 15. His prognosis is poor. There are financial difficulties as well. This is one of those cases that makes you ask why? why? why? Why him? Why not, for instance, me? I like to think I’d be missed, but the youngest of my children is almost finished with college, and my wife would not be destitute. I will post his name and ask for prayers when I get permission from the family to do so.

And who knows what horrors are happening in the prisons of Iran?

Then came yesterday’s Scripture readings at Mass:

God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. (Wisdom 1:13).

And the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead:

…the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth…. And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Tal’itha cu’mi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, (I say unto thee,) arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked. (Mark 5:39-42)

Sometimes I think the whole Christian faith can be summed up this way: Do you hate death? Do you find it intolerable, unbearable, unacceptable, that you and everyone and everything you love will die and disappear for ever? If you do, then follow this man.



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