Choose life: Ponderings on death


Recently, I received news that my 18-year-old cousin (Tonisha Adams) was discovered dead in her home. Waves of shock, sorrow and concern washed over me. I cried out to God on Tonisha’s behalf. What a hard and short life this precious one had lived. I thanked God for the gift of her life and begged God to have mercy on my sweet girl.

                             Rest In Peace Tonisha

I have often disagreed with the author of 1 Corinthians (15:55) who said, “Oh death where is thy sting?” because the loss of loved ones pierces my heart deeply. The author of Thessalonians 4:13 also cautions that unless we are informed about death, we will grieve like those without hope. Being uninformed about the Church’s teaching on death can also increase the likelihood that we are imprisoned by the fear of our own deaths and /or the deaths of those we care about. So what exactly are the church’s teachings about death? To what extent does the teaching of the church impact the ways in which we grieve?

As Christians, death is supposed to have a positive meaning because of Christ. God made us to be in eternal union with God. Death is an unintended consequence of sin. Jesus, the Son of God suffered death because of His zeal to proclaim the kingdom of God. Through His resurrection, He transformed the curse of death into a blessing for humankind.[1]

Human beings are on an earthly pilgrimage to work out our earthly lives in accordance with God’s divine plan.[2] We have limited time to bring our lives to fulfilment through the grace of God.[3] Each breath that we take is graced. God in God’s loving mercy gifts us with opportunities to accept or reject the divine graces manifested in Christ.[4] In death, our soul is separated from our bodies and God calls humankind to Godself.[5] Immediately, we are received based on our works and faith.[6] Our experience after death is based on the choices that we make each day: the extent to which we chose life or death. Many of us do not know when we will die. As such, each day, we are invited to cherish the gift of time that we have been given by choosing well. In choosing life, we too proclaim the kingdom of God with our lives and can inspire others to do the same.

This Lenten period is an ideal time to reflect on our choices and the extent to which they are life-giving. Should we be called to our home today, to what extent did our lives reflect the love of Christ? As I spent time praying the aforementioned scriptures, my notion of death was transformed. I still deeply miss my loved ones and I take comfort in knowing that they are in the presence of God, who loves them even more than I. In addition, I am thankful for those who accompany me on this earthly pilgrimage. I am also truly grateful that God closely accompanies us on this journey and gives us all the graces of which we are in need. I am ever mindful of the importance of interceding for all on this pilgrimage as well as for those who have returned to God before us.

Each day, news of deaths, wars, sickness, poverty, injustice and environmental degradation reinforce the urgency of the call to preach and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is crucial that Christians equip people with that which will help them to maximize the time that they have remaining by choosing life for themselves and others each day. This period of formation is providing the skills to help me to continue to choose life in accordance with God’s will for my life and to encourage others to do the same. In living as God calls us to live, we joyfully proclaim the gospel and wait in hope for the final call that will unite us eternally with our beloved God

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1009).

[2] CCC 1001

[3] CCC 1007

[4] CCC 1021

[5] CCC 1011

[6] CCC 1021