Dealing with Death and Time – 1

Just My Luck – Chapter 2 – Part 1

We know that without exception that which lives eventually dies. To “save” a life, one’s own or another’s, is actually just to postpone a death – nothing more and nothing less. Saving a life is a gift of time. We may not always fully cognizant that every moment of a lifetime is precious, but as long as living trumps the alternative, each living moment counts.

In the aftermath of each time my mortality has confronted me in adulthood, I have come to appreciate living more and have a growing need to lead a life worth living. As I make my way day-to-day I take fewer moments for granted. No news there really. That’s the common lesson learned by most “survivors.” Eat your dessert first.

But what has surprised me is, after each situation where my demise might well have been at hand, I’ve become less afraid of dying.

It Was Just His “Time”pocket watch

Most people first encounter death in the third person well before worrying about it in the first person. Deaths of ‘loved ones’ (or even just well-liked ones) create painful and lasting memories for survivors of all ages   Obituaries typically say that the departed “suffered death” on such-and-such date.   Actually it’s the other way round; the survivors of a dear departed soul are the ones who suffer the death. The living grieve, the dead are beyond that.

While I’m not anxious to meet Him or Her face to face yet, I believe in God. In this context I have done a great deal of soul-searching since 9/11, trying to make sense of a senseless event. As a result, I can state unequivocably that I do not believe that any death, whether by accident, disease, old age, or human mayhem, happens because God made an individual, conscious decision to take someone at a specified time in a specified way at a specified place.

The idea that each death is pre-ordained in Saint Peter’s Reservation Book or some universal game plan drawn out and administered by God is ludicrous. It is likewise ludicrous to say that the real reason I survived my incidents was that it simply wasn’t “my time.” That infers that some other time and place has been selected for me to die, I just haven’t arrived there yet. If I could see the date book, I’d know my destiny. Really?

My father died the day after his 44th birthday. He was a young man, still very much in his prime. There was no way for us to anticipate he would no longer be with us two days after we sang Happy Birthday to him. The idea it was “his time” can only be posed from 20/20 hindsight. Death in the future tense is hazy, uncertain and conceptual; only death in the past tense is real.   It’s easy to know when my father’s “time” was, but on his birthday the day before, who knew when it would be?

If God knew, so what? God wasn’t telling anybody so what does it matter? For we mere mortals, it is immaterial whether there is a date book or not if we have no way to read it. What other schedules does God administer? Shooting stars? No one has any knowledge of the date, place and time I will die or you will die anymore than they know the date, place, or time the next shooting star will be seen.

Pre-destined Death only makes sense if one believes that all moments of every life are pre-destined. Short of that, why would death be the only scheduled event that happens in the midst of otherwise random chaos. No matter where I am or what I am doing, when the alarm clock goes off I will fall lifeless to the floor. If deaths are the only God-scheduled events in the Master Plan, much of God’s influence in our world would be based on subtraction, the removal of a player from the game board.

Does God design “exact moments of planned obsolescence” into his products to make way for future production?

There, that’s done. We’ve scheduled the times and places for all the deaths that will happen next year. Okay, now let’s schedule when people will have ice cream. What’s that? What do you mean we can’t? Why not? We ran out of calendars? Well that’s easily fixed. Call the life insurance companies; if anyone owes us calendars, they do.

Philosophers have long observed that if unbeknownst to us God has a Master Plan that pre-defines every moment of every life, we have no free will; we’re each simply following an invisible path not of our own making to our individual, inevitable destiny. In that context, whose fault would evil deeds be?   We are not responsible or accountable for these actions; blame God.

No, the “it was just her time” and the “it just wasn’t your time” rationales simply do not hold water. Nice try though.


(to be continued)


©2016 James Ash

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