Monday, June 4, 2012

Death: An Inconvenient Truth!

I just finished this book by Leo Tolstoy. The story is short. The message is profound. The questions are ones I've asked and my guess is you have, too.

Why am I here? Is God cruel? Why must we suffer?
What will I do when death is knocking on my door?
At the end, how will I feel about how I lived? What really matters anyway?

Ivan, the main character in the book, is a successful court judge, married (albiet unhappily) with several children. He is well respected in the community. He is confident and plays cards with his buddies regularly. One day, while on a ladder fixing something in his house, he slips and bumps his side. Soon after he is in constant, nagging pain. Then his pain grows and grows. He sees several doctors who can do nothing to relieve his misery except prescribe medication to dull the pain and help him sleep. Eventually, even the medication fails him. He suffers, moans, and writhes in depression and opiates. In the midst of all this, he questions God, questions life, questions his own purpose for living and how he has lived, all the while yelling at his wife and kids to leave him alone. The only person he wants in the room with him is a hired helper named Gerasim, because as Ivan describes him, Gerasim is the only one who doesn't "lie" - (doesn't try to cover up the truth that he is dying) and the only one who shows him sympathy by sitting with him all night long, night after night, holding up his legs (which provides some relief, but mainly it is Gerasim's presence and touch that provide the relief Ivan needs, not the actual leg holding.)
Finally, Ivan says, "Death is over. There is no more death."  He draws his final breath & dies.
The book ends abruptly, just as life does.  There are so many unaswered questions.  When it is all over, "when death dies", does a new life begin? Ivan never answers this question, in fact, he never even asks it. At the end, right before his final breath, he does try to ask one question. He tries to ask for forgiveness from his wife and son, but can only manage to say "forget" instead of forgive and then is left to just hope that they know what he meant to say by reading his eyes because he is too weak to continue.
What a sad, hopeless way to die.
And what a poignant reminder that death will come and when it does, will we lay in a bath of our own regret or will we look back at our life with peace knowing we served the living Christ?
Will we wait until death has stolen are strength & breath to ask for forgiveness (and then it will be to late) or will we seek to make amends now with those we have hurt and disappointed?
Will we draw our last breath in fear of what is to come or in anticipation of being finally, eternally, reunited with Christ and given a new, healed, perfectly painless existence?
Ivan lives selfishly and dies hopelessly.
Thank God, we don't have to do the same.

Link to Book
Or check it out at your local library!

No comments:

Post a Comment