“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Hamlet / William Shakespeare
(tomb in Santa Maria sopra Minerva / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)
“After William Shakespeare’s Horatio sees the ghost of Hamlet’s father and
scarcely believes his own eyes, Hamlet tells him that there is more to reality
than he can know or imagine including ghosts.”
So reads a small excerpt I recently came across when flipping through a new book catalog
I’d just received in the mail.
The catalog is from Ignatius Press and the excerpt was part of a brief overview
for a new book release by both college professor and Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft.
I found the Shakespeare piece, the quote from Hamlet, quite telling.
That there is indeed more to this reality of ours…with death being a bit of a doorway…
not so much the ghost thing…as I do believe in a spiritual warfare…but this is
not about that…not today anyway…
But I should confess that every once in a while I do find my thoughts turning to my
Perhaps that’s a bit morbid, but hey, it happens.
I suppose such thoughts increase as one’s age increases.
Since I hit another birthday last week, I suppose such thoughts concerning both
life and death are just typical brain fodder.
You know when you’re actually closer to that magic number that those supposed experts
keep telling us is a typical life expectancy age for a relatively healthy US woman…
well, the reality becomes a bit hard to ignore.
I’ve mentioned before that if you have ever lived through losing, utterly prematurely, a
loved one or perhaps a dear friend due to a catastrophic illness or tragic accident…
you naturally find yourself wondering, more often than others,
‘when might my your own number get called up??’
So yesterday while I found myself standing at the kitchen sink…a sink full of green beans
that needed snapping and stringing before being cooked…my thoughts wandered off course.
And by the way, I don’t know why but I can never find fresh pole beans this time of year…
just those generic string beans now sold in pre-packaged plastic bags all imported from
south Florida or worse…California….anywhooo, I digress.
So there I was mindlessly stringing and snapping a sink full of imported beans as my mind
My thoughts actually got around to the notion of what if I did just suddenly fall out
here at the sink…
what if I dropped dead while stringing these beans…???!!
I suppose they could sadly write my epitaph “She died stringing beans”
But there are certainly worse ways to go.
And in typical fashion for my life, that’s how it will be you know.
It won’t be like something out of the movies but rather it will be
nothing I will have expected or planned on.
Death doesn’t work that way.
With a healthy melding of both humility and hubris, I’ve always thought it will never
be in some sort of glorious heroic sort of finale.
It’ll be more like something stupid or either something plain awful.
Funny how the brain and ego work in tandem when imagining one’s own ending.
Death waits for no man, and if he does, he usually doesn’t wait long…
That quote comes from Markus Zusak, author of The Book Theif (I didn’t care for the book)
So yes, Mr. Zusak is correct, Death doesn’t wait.
And I think we’d all agree that Death, here in our realm, is mostly perceived as
something most tragic and dreaded…
It’s a permanent-seeming sort of separation and, for far too many, it can be
a painfully slow and lingering happening.
And the odd thing is…that when it is long and painful, we then view Death as a blessed
We even note that the one suffering suffers no more.
Yet death is a thought that leaves all of us unsettled…
particularly when we think about our own demise.
Chances are all of us, at one point or another has mused over when, where, how and why…
Yet what we must remember is that in the mind of God, death is more or less liberating.
It’s the cutting of an earthbound tether… as we humans suffer from
a gravitational pull that keeps us grounded… and Heaven knows, we certainly like
our earthly grounding.
But the cutting of the earthly tether allows for a reunion.
A reunion between Creator and created…
it’s just that we don’t always think of it those sorts of terms.
Instead, we dread it or simply see it more as an ending rather than a beginning.
It’s hard to imagine that death is actually an act of ‘freeing’ us.
Yet for me, it tends to be more of a scary thought than not.
For those of us who lay our hearts, our lives, our sins, our hopes at the foot
of the cross…
those of us who die on the Cross with Christ and are in turn risen from the tomb with
Christ Resurrected…death should not be seen as the ending but rather the beginning…
but yet I’ll be the first to admit, it’s a bit scary walking out into that unknown.
So as I was stringing my beans, I quickly realized that our idea of death is not God’s
idea of death…and that in itself alone is a very good thing.
When I recently visited the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, I
was taken aback a bit when I saw two separate tombs that actually had the real skulls
of the deceased embedded into the tombs as part of the elaborate construction.
A somewhat creepy reminder of our own mortality.
Just like those catacombs in France and other places scattered around the world…
catacombs with thousands of human bones..those of deceased monks,
elaborately displayed in a macabre reminder that from dust we come and to dust,
we will return.
And so as we prepare to enter into this season of Advent, that season of waiting and
A time of anticipation, birth and the newness of life…we must be mindful that the
shadow of the Death remains…
it remains not to frighten us but rather to offer us hope.
The Hope of Life which comes through the Ressurection of a life that overcame Death.
A hard concept to wrap our earth bound heads around, but wrap we must because it is in
our dying that we truly have our life…
It remains not as a harbinger but rather as a reminder…harbinger being man’s idea as
Hope is God’s idea…
And thus the reminder being….that Jesus, through His own death, overcame our death,
allowing us to live…to truly live with Him.
Therefore in Christ, we gloriously find birth, life, death and then finally life eternal…
A gift as it were…with it being the best gift our Heavenly Father could give…
that being a reunited life free of sin or earthly strife…
So tomorrow when I find myself making a pumpkin pie, who knows where my thoughts will
lead me…at least my epitaph won’t read she died stringing beans…
dying while making a pumpkin
pie certainly sounds so much more festive…complete with whipped cream…
(images from The Bascilica of Santa Maria sopa Minerva / Julie Cook / 2018)