Often, when I hear of a person dying a horrible death, be it alone or surrounded by his/her killers, it isn’t the physical pain that I imagine so much, but the emotional state of the dying. Dare we wonder at the despair of dying alone?
An acquaintance of my family--whom I had never met--had been a heroin addict but had been clean for some time. Due to an emotional trauma he experienced, however, he had his first fix in quite some time. As it turns out, it was his last: he overdosed and the opiate stopped his heart.
When my mother told me about this man—a good man, from all accounts—I cried and cried as if he were my brother and I wondered at my tears. But as I looked at my feelings squarely, I knew what it was that made me nearly inconsolable for weeks.
I had never met this guy—he was a friend of one of my sisters--but his death horrified me; not the manner of it so much but the despair inherent in it. He died, likely in no control of his mental faculties and with no hope. Betrayed.
People whose lives end at the hands of some agent of evil must feel a similar lack of control. At such a moment, to whom do these people give control of themselves? Oh, yes, of course, their bodies are at the mercy of the knife-wielder, the hands of the strangler, the laws of physics and their own threshold of pain. That’s not what I’m talking about.
Do such people cede their souls to God in the last moments? Or do they repudiate Him for His perceived betrayal in their anger and despair? Do their minds flash back to that moment that everyone has had? That moment of childhood terror when one fears that mommy and daddy have abandoned them? In such a moment, would one feel that God—the ultimate parent—has taken a powder?
I can’t see why one wouldn’t think that. That’s why maintaining the belief that God is watching over you--especially when you’re heading into the next life at the hands of the agents of The Opposing Team--is such a strong act of Faith.
I’ve written here about my manageable bouts with depression. Dying without hope seems to me to be the ultimate in depression: falling into the dark place in which there is no hope to be had and no hope of escape. I pray that it didn’t happen for Nick Berg or any of the others.
Frankly, I don’t wish that fate on my worst enemy.
(Thanks to Francis W. Porretto for the inspiration)