Conquering the fear of death

MY LAST telephone conversation with a very close friend and colleague, the late Panay News founder Danny Fajardo, focused on what work he wanted me to do while he was in the hospital for open-heart surgery.  After assuring him he had no problem with me, I asked whether a second opinion from a second doctor might rule out surgery.

“No alternative,” he said calmly, adding that his surgeon had successfully operated on Jehovah’s Witnesses like him – sans blood transfusion. I knew then that he was prepared for whatever consequences, including death. Because of his faith in God and belief in the afterlife, he was not afraid of death. He died a few days after surgery.

If there were no life after death, human life would be no more than a hoax; therefore not worth living. Conquering the fear of death is best achieved by embracing a religion that promises immortality.  The Christian religion makes such a promise, albeit with different and often contradictory versions.  As to what happens after death, opinions differ.

The concept of the conscious soul leaving the dead body originated in Egypt five centuries before the birth of Christ. The Greek philosopher Plato adopted this belief of death being mere separation of the soul from the body.

Creative Catholics have gone a step further: They say that souls meet St. Peter up above the clouds, to be informed on whether to spend life everlasting in heaven or in hell.

Bible scholars insist, however, that the Bible ironically jibes with the atheist’s notion that “the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5); otherwise there would be no need for the promised resurrection which would transpire at the “second coming” of Christ.

All atheists agree, however, that death is the end. But we believers disagree among ourselves as regards post-death existence.

Eastern religions, notably Hinduism, preach of death as transition to reincarnation. A person may be reborn into another human being or into another form of animal, depending on whether he has done good or evil.

Whatever the means, the task of conquering death appears universal, no doubt because all other fears spring from the fear of death.

We are prone to ask: If there is hope in death, then why do we grieve at the demise of our parents, children, siblings, other relatives and friends?  There are Christians who try to resist grief because of the Bible verse that says, “You should not grieve like the rest of men who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

However, that verse does not really prohibit mourning. It merely amplifies the advantage that a hopeful Christian has over atheists because of God’s promise that they who have done good shall be rewarded “unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29).

Grief is therefore normal. It merely indicates love for the dead person. During his ministry on earth, Jesus himself wept on learning that Lazarus had died. And to give us a preview of what future awaited the dead, he resurrected Lazarus.

By the way, my late father Juan was a devout member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The sect is emphatic on its teaching that Jesus is coming again to resurrect the righteous into eternal life in Paradise.

After his death and interment, we discovered in Tatay’s briefcase a tract with this printed quotation: “Come view the ground where I do lie. As you are now so once was I. As I am now so you will be. Prepare for death and follow me.” ([email protected]/PN)

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