Death Has Its Ups and Downs


Ok, ok.  Caddy title for a tragic accident.  But having been in the funeral biz for five years I’ve seen my fair share of death and the reasons people die and the most difficult to somehow mentally justify are those termed “freakish“.  I am refering to the death of 41 year old New York advertising ad exec, Suzanna Hart, this last Wednesday.  She was stepping into the elevator right at the moment that the thing decided to travel upward, likely forcing her to fall halfway out and get crushed as the elevator floor met with the ceiling as it traveled up. 

English: LED elevator floor indicator

Step away from the door, please.

Ghastly to imagine it much less being one of the two already in the elevator to witness the horror.  Then there was the equally tragic death of 48 year old Annette Lujan last week, who was crushed as she attempted to crawl out the elevator door when her elevator car was stopped halfway between floors, at the CSU Long Beach Campus.

I suppose we can go on and on recalling equally tragic yet freakish accidents of the past that have been reported in the news or maybe witnessed first hand in the past.  It’s one thing to try and emotionally justify the death of a loved one under more typical “death circumstances” but to try and come to grips with those that perish in seemingly wrong-place, wrong-time situations… it boggles the mind.  When we hear of these tragedies we pause for the moment.. maybe take a deep breath and mumble, “There, but for the grace of God…”, and then we move on, feeling a slight guilt at being relieved that it didn’t happen to me.

Death is Random vs Divine Intervention

The problem with freakish accidents resulting in death (other than death itself being a tragedy) is that they don’t seem to allow for the more normal and accepted spiritual accomodations.  An older person who dies of old age or someone who dies as a result of a long (or short) illness, we can neatly process as being a part of life; people live and people die.  There’s that all-purpose phrase, “God must have had a plan.”, seems to be more palatable.  But freak accidents aren’t that easily explained away.

Now, personally I have evolved spiritually to a point where I acknowledge myself as being human and as such I can recognize that there are two parts to my psyche.  The first is more of the scientific-realist; the culmination of living through life experiences and cognitive learning that allows me to survive day to day.  Then there is the spiritual side.  That’s the part of me that places the ultimate unknowns of life.  It’s the part of me that does dabble with the idea of a Supreme Creator.  That’s the part of me that would likely bring forth some level of prayer or worship if I was experiencing something that my “other side” could not successfully navigate in order to keep me sane.  True, having been in the funeral industry I might have grown into more of a religious cynic toward death, but it also has focused a certain logic that allows me to accept death.  Essentially, when your time is up, it’s up.  If God were that benevolent then why does God make death so horrific (devestating to the physical body), tragic, and seemingly without meaning?  Of course, those are the questions clerics love to answer and have been the subjects of many a funeral eulogy.  But for the most part I’ve found their answers on the subject pretty weak and uninspiring.

Yet… there is the other side of the coin.  Let’s assume the lady who perished while trying to climb out the elevator door successfully made it just as the elevator started.  I mean.. in typical-Hollywood-cliffhanger, made it.  Getting her leg out just as the elevator gave way.   Her near miss certainly might give her religion pretty quick.  In fact, it would likely stay with her for a while and could quite possibly affect her future, depending on her ability to deal with the near-death experience.  If that were me, I could very well likely react the same way, hence my spiritual side might take over in order to keep me from loosing a grasp on reality.

I’ll likely go into my feelings about religion and spiritual attitudes in another article.  But my whole point here is to suggest that it’s ok to ask, “Where was God for these people?” and “If He really wanted them for some higher purpose why did He have to physically smash them up?”.   A member of the clergy would have their answer, but it makes more sense to me to spiritually justify freak accidents as being part of life… and that supports life being short so live it the best way you can.

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