Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, and Life is a Limited Time Offer

dead kid on horse

I’m not sure which one(s) is (are) dead in the pic, but I’m pretty sure they all are by now.

It’s Ash Wednesday again- a day to reflect on personal mortality and the myriad imperfections of humanity, so here I am trotting out the postmortem pics collection.  As macabre as it is, I know I’m not the only one who is fascinated with Victorian era postmortem photography.  As for the kid in the above pic, he looks like he’s seen a ghost.  Mom and Dad look pretty much comatose, which is why I can’t tell for sure who’s dead and who’s not.  I’m pretty sure I would have the same expression on my face as the kid if I were required to sit that close to dead people, so that’s another reason why I wonder if the kid, the parents, just one or the other parent, or all three were dead when this pic was taken.   The reality is, now anyway, that they are all dead, unless the kid is 120 or something. Physical death is a 100% probability- it’s going to happen- and it’s just a question of when. 

I could even get into a little Southern Baptist soteriology (even though it’s a bit odd because SB’s don’t observe Ash Wednesday) right about now too.  Turn or burn, baby.  You are gonna be worm food, so now’s your time to Get Right with the Lawd-uh!

televangelist

Somehow seeking salvation from a dog and pony show like this seems about as effective as taking driving lessons from Ted Kennedy.

I do like her wig though.  If only it were black.

I have had a rather cynical relationship with organized religion through the years.  When I decided to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which many self-proclaimed Catholics have not) I learned that if I am to be intellectually honest with myself and with God there is no way I can claim to be Roman Catholic.   There is some Weird Stuff in there.  I almost joined an SB church because their theology tends to be very black and white.  Saved/not saved, sin/not sin, and so on.  You can know if you’re IN or OUT.  I love the Baptist emphasis on Bible study too- but- for me the big problem with Baptists in general is that they tend to put too much on human free will- such as we “choose” to believe.  I’m here to say that I firmly believe it’s God doing the choosing, and I don’t claim to understand that.

I discovered confessional Lutheranism when I was in college, and of all the interpretations and expressions of Christianity, to me it makes the most sense.  Lutheranism- in its classic sense, is not perfect, but it allows for the grey areas, and allows for intellectual honesty and questions.  There is space for the mystery that is God.  There is understanding for my lack of ability to comprehend.

dead kid with angels

I have a hard time understanding why you would take pics of a dead kid surrounded by paper angels, but it was a different time.

I wish I could believe spiritual things as black and white (and there are some things that are) but I find myself asking way too many questions- questions where I simply have to accept the mystery and be okay that the answer is either something I don’t know or can’t understand.

I’m glad that I’m not the one who makes the vast decisions of the cosmos.  I’m doing good to decide what to wear or what to eat, and grateful to have both clothes and food.

Saints in stained-glass

I’m pretty sure no one is going to want to memorialize me in stained glass.

I have more questions than answers and more failures than successes, but I have to believe there is some reason why I am sucking up valuable oxygen for the time being, whether I get it or not.

(Jesus said:) “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;  but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 (NRSV)

Today’s questions would be, “Where is my treasure?  Where is my heart?”

I really have to think about both of those questions today.

Death, Life Beyond Miz Izz, and Something Else to Say

Isabelnotamused

So I haven’t been around for awhile.  There’s a few reasons for that.  Let’s start off by saying I hope no one else in my sphere dies anytime soon.  Death sucks.  Especially when it’s Miz Izz.

I acquired Miz Izz- Isabel- as a four-week old (it’s really easy to estimate young kittens’ age) that had been abandoned in a grocery store parking lot.  What amazed me is that a typical feral cat, even one that tiny, would have at least tried to run or fight, but not Isabel. She let me scoop her up and take her home.  As if she belonged.  And she did.

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This is Jezebel at 9 weeks- she and Isabel were virtually identical as far as looks and build.

Had Isabel lived another month she would have been 16 years old.  But her poor little body just couldn’t take any more.  She had always been petite and somewhat frail, and she had become even more so when she developed a condition called “pillow foot” or more correctly, plasma cell pododermatitis. Suffice to say this is a nasty condition, and Isabel had it rather severely.  At times her paws would swell up so much they would bleed and I would have to take her to get shots- which helped for awhile, but then she became too fragile for the meds (prednisone and doxycycline.)

Maybe I shouldn’t miss an old, fragile black cat with set ways and a loud voice.  But I do.

Death can be a mercy, especially when someone is suffering and there isn’t any real fix for it, when there’s no longer any good life to be had. My last good memory of Isabel was of her greedily snapping up pieces of top sirloin as we shared a steak.  The dogs were outside of course, and the only two cats that were ever bold enough to ever approach my Steak Experience were Isabel and Jezebel.  Jezebel is a bit more restrained, but Isabel never had a problem getting right up close to get her little bits of gristle and fat.  That was the last time I can say I knew Isabel was still enjoying being a cat.  I buried her a week later.

grimreaper

Ask not for whom the bell tolls…

I admit that I fight with the idea that humane euthanasia is OK when a cat or a dog is suffering and they have gotten beyond what I would call “good life to be had,” but the same concept doesn’t apply to humans.  I understand, at least from a spiritual and theological view, that God is the Author of life. Since humans are made in His image, we generally don’t have the authority to take human life away.  (Capital punishment is an exception to the general prohibition against taking human life, and so is just war, but those are topics worthy of their own separate and detailed discussions.  Suffice to say that I believe in the merits of both, in the proper circumstances.)

Dead_Body_Man_by_MrMotts

 

It is morally right to put a cat or a dog to sleep when he or she is suffering and he or she stops enjoying being a cat or a dog.  Euthanasia for humans is not acceptable even when it would seem to be a mercy.

As far as the higher purpose of human suffering, I’ll be the first to say I don’t get it.

Not that I would put a human life into the same (noble but still lower) category as the life of Miz Izz, but my mother-in-law had been suffering and confined to a wheelchair for most of the time that Miz Izz walked the earth.  My mother-in-law died last Saturday after being confined to a wheelchair for 15 years, suffering with rheumatoid arthritis, congestive heart failure and a laundry list of other maladies.  Her last two weeks were particularly brutal.

I don’t believe in euthanasia for humans- not ever- but sometimes I’ve got to ask God why.  Isabel pretty much enjoyed her cat life up until the last week of it. Granted happiness for cats is fairly easy- somewhere to sleep, food to eat and somewhere to drop a load.  Human life is a lot more complicated, but still, why did Jerry’s Mom have to suffer for so freaking long?

monty python evacuation

Hospice is a great help for those who are actively dying, but it can only mitigate the process.

Worse than her dying was the funeral. I understand Southern Baptist soteriology (understanding of the mechanism of salvation) pretty well.  “Turn or Burn” is pretty standard fare at SB funerals, but to the uninitiated, it is about as anti-PC as one can get.  You don’t get a funeral message too often that includes, “Do you know where you’ll be if you get hit by a truck on the way out of here?”

Jerry’s sisters were a bit taken aback.  I had tried to give Steve-o a heads up on SB soteriology before the funeral so he wouldn’t freak out. His religious understanding has pretty much been shaped by growing up in a Lutheran church, so the really fundamental interpretations of SB soteriology would sound a bit bat-shit crazy to him.  Mom has confused him enough by trying to throw in the Catholic earn – your -points system.

I grew up around Regular Baptists (even more of the “Turn or Burn” mentality than the SBs) so I know all too well there could possibly be an altar call.  There wasn’t.  He did do the Sinners’ Prayer though.  I have to hand it to the preacher for preaching the gospel instead of offering pallid platitudes on how much life sucks and then you die, ya – da ya-da. At least Steve-o had a heads up.

Lutherans don’t do altar calls.  Our pastors do occasionally mention hell, but not usually at funerals.

It just seems strange to me. Life and death and all of that.