A Discussion On Death

  • Category: Philosophy
  • Words: 2510
  • Grade: 60
The subject of what happens after death is one that has been debated for centuries. No one knows for certain where we go when we die, except the dead. However, everyone has his own beliefs and opinions. For example, some people believe in reincarnation, some believe in karma and eventually reaching nirvana, some believe that your soul will live forever in heaven or hell, and some believe that death is the final end of your body and soul. Based on Betty J. Eadie's book Embracing the Light, the following term paper relates my viewpoints regarding life after death.
        When Betty J. Eadie was a child, she was placed in boarding schools after her parents' separation. In the first school she attended, the fear of God was heavily instilled in her by the faculty.
"We were taught about God there, and I learned many things I had never considered. We were told that we "“the Indians- were heathens and sinners, and, of course, I believed this. The nuns were supposed to be special in God's eyes, and we learned that they were there to help us. My sister Thelma was often beaten by them with a little hose and then forced to thank the Sister who had done it or be beaten again. These were God's chosen servants, as I believed, and I began to fear God immensely because of them. Everything I learned about him intensified this fear. He seemed angry and impatient and very powerful, which meant that he would probably destroy me or send me straight to hell on Judgment Day "“ or before then if I crossed him. This boarding-school god was a being I hoped never to meet." (Eadie 8.)

        Betty grew up half White and half Native American. As a child, she saw signs posted on businesses in town that read "No Dogs or Indians Allowed." This reinforced everything that she was taught and made her believe that the Indians really were heathens, sinners, and outcasts in the eyes of God. However, at Brainard Indian Training School, she was finally taught another perspective about God.
"Brainard Indian Training School proved to be a more positive experience than my earlier ones had been"¦I learned that God meant different things to different people. Instead of the angry, vengeful God that I had come to know before, these people taught of a happier God who was pleased when we were happy." (Eadie 10.)

Despite this new way of looking at God and everything she was taught, she was still convinced that He was still a vengeful, angry God. "Although I recognized that there were different ways to view God and to worship him, I think I remained convinced that he was still the God who would punish me if I ever died and appeared before him." (Eadie 10.) However, her curiosity about God increased, and she went to several different churches during the summer.
"My curiosity about God grew as I matured because I recognized that he was playing a major role in my life. I just wasn't sure what that role was or how it would affect me as I grew older. I approached him in prayer to get answers, but I didn't feel that he heard me. My words just seemed to dissipate in the air. When I was eleven I summoned my courage and asked our school matron if she really believed that there was a god. I felt that if anybody really knew, she did. But instead of answering my question, she slapped me and asked how dare I question his existence. Se told me to get on my knees and pray for forgiveness, which I did. But now I knew that I was doomed to hell because of my lack of faith "“ because I had questioned the existence of God. I was sure now that I could never be forgiven." (Eadie 11.)

As Betty grew older, her curiosity grew with her. She began attending more and more churches, and memorizing passages from the New Testament. She came to believe that when a person died, his spirit would stay with the body until the resurrection.
In the book On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D., the impression is given that a belief in religion is lost, and therefore so is the hope of life after death. ""¦also, fewer people really believe in life after death, in itself perhaps a denial of our mortality. Well, if we cannot anticipate life after death, then we have to consider death." (Kübler-Ross 29.)
Thus far I have shown two women who have diverse opinions about life after death, and I have a third opinion. Being Catholic, I believe that when you die, your soul is judged immediately and is either sent to heaven or hell for eternity. This is a result of everything I was taught growing up by my parents, at my Catholic high school, and by my own understanding of Catholicism. Like Betty J. Eadie, there was a point in my life when I questioned my religion. I compared it to scientific history, and was always thinking, "if Jesus said this, then what about this?" My questioning period only lasted a short while, and soon I accepted my faith again. Recently however, I started to see things much differently than I did before. I became much more understanding, loving, and happy with everyone. I have put my faith in God, and trust that everything will work out. I realize that the hurdles He throws at me are there to teach me life lessons.
The issue of religion and suffering in life is a recurring topic with Kübler-Ross. This is especially evident when she brings up childbirth.
"What role has religion played in these changing times? In the old days more people seemed to believe in God unquestionably; they believed in a hereafter, which was to relieve people of their suffering and their pain. There was a reward in heaven, and if we had suffered much here on earth we would be rewarded after death depending on the courage and grace, patience and dignity with which we had carried our burden. Suffering was more common, as childbirth was a more natural, long and painful event "“ but the mother was awake when the child was born. There was a purpose and future reward in the suffering. Now we sedate mothers, try to avoid pain and agony; we may even induce labor to have a birth occur on a relative's birthday or to avoid interference with another important event. Many mothers only wake up hours after the babies are born, too drugged and sleepy to rejoice the birth of their children. There is not much sense in suffering, since drugs can be given for pain, itching, and other discomforts. The belief has long died that suffering here on earth will be rewarded in heaven. Suffering has lost its meaning." (Kübler-Ross 28.)

I believe this is half true. I think we just suffer in different ways. Suffering could mean intense stress, a terminal illness, homelessness, or any experience of pain, loss, grief, defeat, or change. Any of the above could be a form of suffering. It shouldn't be limited to physical pain. Then again, I don't think the amount of suffering on earth should equal the size of your reward in Heaven.
        However, if the suffering is physical pain, then Kübler-Ross brings up another point in her book. Should people be "kept alive" on machines?
"A look to the future shows us a society in which more and more people are "kept alive" both with machines replacing vital organs and computers checking from time to time to see if some additional physiologic functionings have to be replaced by electronic equipment. Centers may be established in increasing numbers where all the technical data is collected and where a light may flash up when a patient expires in order to stop the equipment automatically." (Kübler-Ross 29.)

        I believe that Kübler-Ross is saying that she doesn't believe that people should be kept alive by means of machinery. If this is in fact what she means, then I have to disagree completely. I think it is almost imperative for some people to be kept alive by a machine so that doctors can cure the patient, and definitely if it's a child.
        Also, if doctors want to help diminish suffering in their patients, then they should not hesitate to be honest with them if the patient has a terminal disease like AIDS. The problem now arises as to how the doctor should tell the patient. In some cases, the patient might not be ready to hear such news, or might live in denial for a while.
"If a doctor can speak freely with his patients about the diagnosis of malignancy without equating it necessarily with impending death, he will do the patient a great service. He should at the same time leave the door open for hope, namely, new drugs, treatments, chances of new techniques and new research. The main thing is that he communicates to the patient that all is not lost; that he is not giving him up because of a certain diagnosis; that it is a battle they are going to fight together "“patient, family, and doctor- no matter the end result. Such a patient will not fear isolation, deceit, rejection, but will continue to have confidence in the honesty of his physician and know that if there is anything that can be done, they will do it together. Such an approach is equally reassuring to the family who often feel terribly impotent in such moments. They greatly depend on verbal or nonverbal reassurance from the doctor. They are encouraged to know that everything possible will be done, if not to prolong life at least to diminish suffering.
If a patient comes in with a lump in the breast, a considerate doctor will prepare her with the possibility of a malignancy and tell her that a biopsy, for example, will reveal the true nature of the tumor. He will also tell her ahead of time that a more extensive surgery will be required if a malignancy is found. Such a patient has more time to prepare herself for the possibility of a cancer and will be better prepared to accept more extensive surgery should it be necessary. When the patient awakens from the surgical procedure the doctor can say, "I am sorry, we had to do the more extensive surgery." If the patient responds, "Thank God, it was benign," he can simply say, "I wish that were true," and then silently sit with her for a while and not run off. Such a patient may pretend not to know for several days. It would be cruel for a physician to force her to accept the fact when she clearly communicates that she is not yet ready to hear it. The fact that he has told her once will be sufficient to maintain confidence in the doctor. Such a patient will seek him out later when she is able and strong enough to face the possible fatal outcome of her illness.
Another patient's response may be, "Oh, doctor, how terrible, how long do I have to live?" The physician may then tell her how much has been achieved in recent years in terms of extending the life span of such patients, and about the possibility of additional surgery which has shown good results; he may tell her frankly that nobody knows how long she can live. I think it is the worst possible management of any patient, no matter how strong, to give him a concrete number of months or years. Since such information is wrong in any case, and exceptions in both directions are the rule, I see no reason why we even consider such information. There may be a need in some rare instances where a head of a household should be informed of the shortness of his expected life in order to bring his affairs in order. I think even in such cases a tactful, understanding physician can communicate to his patient that he may be better off putting his affairs in order while he has the leisure and strength to do so, rather than to wait too long. Such a patient will most likely get the implicit message while still able to maintain the hope which each and every patient has to keep, including the ones who say that they are ready to die. Our interviews have shown that all patients have kept a door open to the possibility of continued existence, and not one of them has at all times maintained that there is no wish to live at all." (Kübler-Ross 42.)

        I am also arguing Kübler-Ross' statement that there is no life after death by the fact that in Embraced by the Light, Eadie describes how God intervened with one of her children being born.
"The day before the scheduled abortion I was in the hospital to be examined by another team of doctors, and they were in agreement that we should continue as planned. Jus as the last doctor passed by me to leave the room, he said, "We don't understand why that little fellow is hanging in there." I felt a chill pass through me, and the thought came to me, "˜Don't do this. You must have this child. He wants to be born.'" (Eadie 22.)

That experience must have come from God for her to get a chill and have that thought come into her head in that way.
        This reinforces my own personal beliefs about the fact that God does in fact exist, and that there is life after death. If God is so powerful that He can have that much control over Life, then He must have an equal amount of control over Death. Personally, I must agree with Eadie that some people do experience eternal life after death in heaven, that heaven is a place filled with awesome beauty, that Jesus has a great sense of humor, that everyone there is filled with so much love that they become love itself, and that every living particle is singing the praises of God. Music fills the air.
        In conclusion, I would like to leave you with a quote from the Bible, which I believe is the true word of God. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
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