Reinventing Life After Death

Well, it’s not really reinventing, as though this is a new effort or idea.

A short NPR piece on dignity therapy, an effort to help people facing imminent death by allowing them to author a work about their life.  
It’s called a new treatment, but it’s not very new at all.  Back in the mid 15th century, an immensely popular book was the Ars Moriendi – a treatise on how to die well (from a Christian understanding of things).  There were multiple editions, illustrated and non-illustrated, and it was translated into multiple languages.  
The idea was that death is something to be prepared for.  We all know it’s coming, we just don’t know when.  As such, as Christian Scripture suggests, life is lived with this understanding.  Death is not something shameful to be hidden away, rather it is (or at least was) a very public moment where one might shed light on the meaning of other’s lives by the manner in which one died.  In the process, people surrounding the dying person would also understand better that person – what they valued and treasured.  
That being said, the emphasis was not on the dying person per se, but rather on Christ who was the hope of the dying person.  More important than getting people to understand the dying person, this process stressed pointing others to faith in Jesus Christ by the final witness of the dying person.  
The idea of being able to craft some statement about my life as I approach death has a lot of personal appeal.  It’s the writer in me, perhaps, still hoping to publish something valuable and lasting, and realizing that this might not be a best-seller, but something more private for my family.  But even as I acknowledge the appeal of that process, I understand the importance of the witness of faith.  I’m in no hurry to die, but when I do, I pray that my death will be an opportunity for a final witness of faith, a final exhortation to remain faithful.  Whether my family ultimately understands me or not should, in the final assessment, be a function of their understanding of me in Jesus Christ.  The two shouldn’t be separable, ideally.  
Of course, none of that is taken into account in the NPR article.  Dignity therapy is just that, something solely for the edification of the dying person, solely focused on them.  The ultimate vanity press, quite literally.  The assumption is that since nothing lives on from the dying person in any real way, the illusion of immortality through the written word is a helpful substitute.  However helpful it may be (and I have no doubt that it’s helpful!), what a shallow substitute for the real promise of life after death!
I found it interesting that the article spent a fair amount of time on ‘false’ remembrances.  The example cited seems a rather poor representation of a potential falsehood or reimagining of an event, but does highlight a great deal the possible differences between how people view or deal with a given situation.  It’s interesting that the daughter feels that the mother deliberately misrepresented an event, when perhaps – despite the acknowledge challenges of the event – the mother really viewed the event as she describes it (or fails to describe it).  What is traumatic and difficult for one person is not necessarily so for someone else – one of the challenges of autobiography I would imagine.  

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