Coffins at Costco
“The fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other.” – Ecclesiastes 3:19
You are going to die. Embrace it. The psychiatrist Irwin Yalom warns, “Life shrinks when death is denied.”
You can run from death. You can immerse yourself in the surface, diverted by screens and magazines, distracted from everything, including existence itself. Martin Heidegger called this kind of life, “forgetfulness of being.” Just floating along. It is the state most of us live in most of the time. We’re encouraged to. We segregate the dying and ignore the aging. We worship at the altar of a youth cult. The quarterback slips? The actress ages? They get edged off the stage by next year’s model.
Occasionally something punctures the haze. Last year I saw it happen at Costco. The man in front of me had a large-screen TV, a box of apples, a handle of vodka and God knows what else in his cart. Suddenly he stopped. Froze and said, “Whoaaa…” I looked up. There was a coffin for sale, right in the middle of the store.
The man didn’t sound upset. He sounded amazed.
When the haze is punctured life becomes intense. Everything around you is fleeting. You are fleeting. Suddenly the day shimmers. Existence becomes remarkable. It glows and is worth diving into as deeply as possible. Heidegger said that in this state one marvels not about the way things are, but that they are. You are going to die. I am going to die. The clock is ticking. We ought to start living right now.
Dear God, Thank you for the fact that I am. That this breath is. Let my jaw drop. Amen.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL.