A friend told me recently that whenever she would agonize about anything, her grandmother would counsel that, “In one hundred years, this won’t even matter.” The idea being that in one hundred years, she’ll be dead. And perhaps even if she were to be alive, she’d be too old to care about the experience that is currently causing her to worry. And while humanity can find just about anything to disagree on, the one profound reality that we can all agree on, that we all eventually have to face, is death. There is no escaping it: You and I are going to die one day.
As a child, I was terrified of death and consequently my young Catholic self, would negotiate with God constantly. My parents also go to mass daily and upon receiving My First Communion, especially during school term breaks, I would go to confession every time I went to mass. I wasn’t only afraid of death, I was essentially also afraid of hell, and this is how I dealt with it. I look back on it and laugh, but sometimes even as someone who still is a practicing Catholic, I become sorry. Sorry about how complacent I can be about faith in adulthood, especially in a faith in which death will bring judgment on one’s life.
I have found till this day that death still makes me uncomfortable at best, and sometimes a little scared. And like most people, I don’t spend too much time thinking about it unless I am confronted with it when it happens to others, or know people who are nearing their end. I think for most human beings there is an unspoken fear of death that we have, due to its inevitability, as well as the uncertainty of what supersedes death. We may we think we know, we may even have faith, but we do not have certainty.
Death, if we really think about, is quite strange. Why don’t we keep on living? Why do we have to die? Of course, different schools of epistemology and religion and science give us answers or at least attempt to. But in the end, on a fundamental level, the fact that we have to die interrupts and confuses our human experience. And death for many of us will be a sad affair for those we leave behind. And when we experience the death of our loved ones, it is such a confusing and heartbreaking experience that it is hard to ever think of death as something good.
But death is necessary if not good, and not just because it is inevitable. But in our fallen world, it is the only thing that provides a complete escape. I love life, and I love being alive. But in this human body as I know it and in this world as I know it, however terrified I am of the unknown, I don’t think I would want to live forever. Death, when we allow its inevitability to occur rather than take it into our own hands, gives us peace. It gives us an end to the human suffering and pain and hurt that we experience as a part of our existence. And for those with certain faiths, death is what brings one to a perfect place beyond this imperfect human experience.
Death is painful. But so is life. Every day, life is painful for us in this fallen world; it is a contradicting beauty that we participate in – life as something beautiful and life as something painful. And maybe death mirrors life in that way more than we like to think – painful but beautiful. But neither death nor life is easy to face, when we consider how complex and confusing they are. And indeed we will live only once, just as we will die only once – in this state, as we know it. But at the end of this life as know it, as has been said by many before, once ought to have been enough. And if you ever find yourself worrying about anything in life, sometimes it’s enough to know that in one hundred years, it won’t even matter.