Friday, April 01, 2022

Be Alive As You Die

A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.
    - G. K. Chesterton

We’ve had a small late March snowstorm a couple of days ago. In Western New York, this is not unusual. I’ve experienced April snow here. 

There was enough snow I had to do a little shoveling of the driveway. 

I like shoveling snow. It’s a physical activity, albeit, a short-lived one. But it makes me feel …  virtuous. And there’s a sense of accomplishment as I clear a path for the cars. And it gives me time to think, to pray, to mull over my latest writing project or what I should have said (or might say).

When the snowfall is heavier, as it was earlier this year, I’ve even had to get out the small electric snowblower my daughters kindly gave me one Christmas. I like to shovel, but I’m not a masochist.

My wife, however, frets any time I go out to clear snow off the driveway. She is certain I will at some point have a heart attack and drop dead. Shovel in hand. She keeps bringing up the idea of hiring someone to plow.

When she brings this up, I usually respond I don’t want to hire a plowing service. And if I do drop dead, it’s actually one of the ways I wouldn’t mind going into the great beyond. It would be sudden; no lingering. 

Another way I wouldn’t mind going is mowing the lawn. It’s also an activity I enjoy for many of the same reasons I enjoy shoveling the driveway. And it’s another activity my wife frets about and repeatedly calls for hiring an outsider to battle the grass.

So far, I’ve held off giving in to her.

There’s also a romantic side to me, so if I had to go I wouldn’t mind if it was in some heroic way. I’m too old to be a soldier, a police officer, or a firefighter, so I wouldn’t go into the heavenly realms doing my job. But dying while saving someone during some kind of disaster - natural or man-made - would be a fine way to step into the light.

Another romantic way to go would be as a martyr. Yes, that might be slow and/or painful, but dying for my faith in such a way would make up for some (too many) sins in my past, and would (I hope) punch my ticket into heaven. 

I’ve joked that when my time comes, family members should just drive me deep into the Canadian woods, open the car door, and let me out to sit under a tree to welcome Brother Death. Of course, the fact that I might also have to deal with Brother Bear or Brother Wolf makes me reject this option. 

When I look at the ways I wouldn’t mind dying, I think of Dylan Thomas’s admonition not to go gentle into that good night. Go down fighting. Don’t go with the current like a dead thing, as Chesterton noted, go against it like a living thing. Confront the forces of nature. Go against the currents of evil or the secular secular culture. Be alive, even as you die.

What I would not like is a slow, lingering slide into that good night. I’ve watched too many loved ones suffer in that way. My father, who in his youth had been a star athlete and even a heavyweight boxer, suffered a massive stroke and spent his last 13 years gradually losing his abilities to walk and to take care of himself. He ended up in a nursing home. He was aware of his decline, and it deeply troubled him.

That’s not for me.

Just give me a shovel and let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

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