“I don’t want to die. Please don’t let me die…” Hugo Chavez.
These were the very last words he spoke. His words circulated and were announced by radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet all around the world. He was a leader. He had power. He was in charge of one of the most powerful oil productions of the world. Nevertheless, his power, his oil, his status, his fame, his wealth could not stop what is an unstoppable track in life…
I do not want to touch the political field here. I do not want to answer your probable question, “Is he in heaven or hell?” I am not the secretary of the Holy Trinity to answer this question. And I do not have any intention to have this role in life.
Actually, every single human being will face this “final tunnel” sooner or later in life. Some people face this very last stage when they are still very young carrying just a few experiences on their shoulders. Other people find themselves face to face with this passage after spending many years on earth and after having been able to taste several flavors and colors in this existence.
Although there are many who face this final tunnel in a very slow pace and go through the last breaths of life with a lot of pain and suffering, there are others who are harvested from life without even realizing that they are being taken away from their bodies.
Believe it or not, we are all in this countdown process. We are all going to face what is an inevitable part of our existence.
I was probably between 7 or 8 years old when I decided to leave the table where my uncles, aunts, cousins, sister and grandmother got together to eat. It was in a town called Valinhos, near Sao Paulo.
Frequently, my uncle and aunt took me, my sister and grandmother to go to their beautiful cottage. The field was almost 10.000 m2. They had chickens, birds, vegetable garden, lots of sugar cane, a very nice soccer field and a beautiful swimming pool. So, after our meal, I decided to leave them and go to the pool. It was a very sunny afternoon. I loved running after the chickens. I loved playing in the swimming pool as well. On that day, when I got close to the swimming pool, I saw a little toy in the water. So, I decided to get closer and closer, much closer, and stretched my arms as much as possible toward the little object. But after that, the only thing that I remember is a desperate attempt to get out of the water by moving my legs and arms as fast as possible while I tried to reach the a tube or the side of the pool…
I still remember what plan I had in mind as I kept drinking water and drowning. I said to myself “If I catch this tube I will be able to pull myself out of here”. So I tried and tried several times, but I do not remember how many seconds I stayed making this frustrating attempt to reach out to that little tube, because after a while, I fainted.
Suddenly, I did not see any tube anymore, swimming pool, or any other object around me. Actually, right now thinking about it as I write this paragraph, the only memory that I have is when I looked up and saw my cousin jumping and diving into the water in order to rescue me.
By the way, later on I was told that as soon as they realized I was not at the table they all stood up and started looking for me desperately. Finally, my cousin had an idea to check the swimming pool. Then, she ran to the swimming pool and saw me in the water completely still.
My very last image of this episode is when I saw myself from somewhere else and I watched my grandmother, sister and a few other people crying around me as my aunt tried to bring me back to life by mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. To be honest, I do not know where I was when I saw this last image. To be honest I do not know what “somewhere else” means. However, I am here to write these few lines just because life is very short. Life is a like a short breath. And we may face this “final tunnel” at any time.
Today I know if I had gone that day in the swimming pool, if my last image had been that swimming tube and my last thought had been my plan to save myself, I would not have felt anything besides those few seconds of desperation. The tunnel was before me and I was very close and ready to go in it without realizing the quick passage…
Death is a fearful, frightening, unknown place for those who have not gone through it yet like you and I because we are here, alive. Nevertheless, whoever has already passed through this tunnel, obviously it is over. The tunnel is over. The passage is gone. It does not scare them anymore. It is just a question, a moment, a transition of a few seconds and period.
There are people who do not like to talk about this subject. There are others who would say “Stop talking about it, I am too young to think about it”. There are other folks who avoid hospitals, funerals and whatever may remind them of this unchangeable chapter of our lives called death. Nevertheless, there is something that it is even worse than fearing death. It is to fear living life!
Actually, most people who are afraid of death are afraid of living life. Have you met people like that?
Maybe your father feels this pain as he is getting older. Maybe I am talking about one of your colleagues.
Maybe your sister avoids this subject because she thinks she is too young and wants to get married and have kids. Maybe it is you. You catch yourself and lose your breath when you think about life and death. You panic!
I meet people fearing to face death every day. And also I meet people fearing to live life. They are tormented by the idea that anything unpredictable may happen any time with them.
This panic, this fear, this thought, this anguish are present constantly, every day, in their lives.
Life?! There is not life to be lived when you live life under this constant fear. What they do not realize is that there is an installed countdown process somewhere in our consciousness whether we like it or not. The countdown is unstoppable…
Fear of the unknown. We want to be in charge of every second in life. We want to have control over every chapter of our existence. We want to avoid pain. We want to avoid death.
We want to run away from any unpredictable chaos or unexpected tsunami that may come over our lives. We want to stop this roller-coaster. Some people would pay anything to avoid these chapters in life. But they cannot. It is inevitable!
Money, power, status, wealth, fame, castles, mansions, stocks…
Nothing is able to stop this countdown!
In the final analysis we are able to live life and have serenity as we walk on this existential ground just when we resolve the fear of death inside of us. Otherwise, we just pacify our hearts and find serenity to face the unpredictability of life when we embrace and understand what John writes in his 1st epistle “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other…”
Love wins. Love is always the answer!
There is not any demagogy in my words. There is not any poetry in my sentence. Love is always the answer because God is love!
You live better when you talk to your spouse in love. You live better when you correct your son or daughter with love. You live better when you forgive whoever has offended and hurt you by the power of love. You live better when you decide to move on by love. This is not religion. This is not a “church talk”. This is just a decision in life to love and understand that there is a God who is bigger than any human construction or any philosophical thought.
Nowadays companies and workshops of motivation talk about love. Self-help books talk about love. Speakers and motivators lecture about love. But at the very end, we know love is the answer because God is love!
The writer of Hebrews brings a new insight when he mentions Jesus and what He did. “…by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
The good news is death is dead!
Believe me. Death is dead!
Death died. Jesus killed death on the cross.
By his death He set us free and broke the power of death.
No more slavery. No more fear of death. No more fear of living life!
Our path is definitely built day by day by faith in love. It is not built by religious action. It is not built by Sunday school attendance. It is not built by Christian traditions and dogmas.
It is not built by credentials and pastoral titles. It is not built by any moral speech. It is built by making the daily decision to love each other, love ourselves and love God. It is by faith, only by faith. It is a leap of faith!