A string of recent celebrity demises has struck many fans profoundly. It is shocking, tragic, and downright sad when we think that icons of secular society are human just like the rest of us. Their talent was inspiring and imagining the world deprived of their gifts is depressing.
The most impactful part of these deaths is that it forces us to face our own mortality. We realize that those we think of as vibrant and lively individuals succumb to ailments such as cancer and pneumonia, just like the rest of humanity. If the “Goblin King,” “Snape,” and the founder of The Eagles are gone just like that, then what does that mean for the rest of us? Their immortality rests in their incredible, exceptional, artistic abilities, so it begs the question: Must we too be immortal in such a way?
The human sides of us have a longing for some type of fame. There is a small bit of desire for popularity and prominence within everyone. It is nice to feel important, to know we have made a difference, and that our lives we lived actually meant something. This may indeed come from that want for immortality—the resistance to death and dying. None of us want to die. There is an uncertainty and fear. What happens when this is all over and we are forgotten?
Fortunately, our belief as Catholics leaves us, hopefully, with a healthy understanding of death.
“I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ said the Spirit, ‘let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them.’” (Revelation 14:13)
There is a hopefulness that accompanies death. Our works and our faith bring us to a belief in the immortality of our souls. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The Christian who unites his own death to that of Jesus views it as a step towards him and an entrance into everlasting life.” We believe in everlasting life, therefore the thought of death should only scare us if we fail to seek Christ. We also know we must be patient in achieving salvation after death. We need to really earn and understand the path to Heaven. I have always thought it sad that non-believers believe physical death is the end and that there isn’t more after this worldly life of suffering, pain, and fear.
However, the CCC also states “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” This is basically the definition of Purgatory. Purification is necessary therefore we must pray for those souls who have not reached Heaven yet.
What does this all mean for our own mortality? Seeking Christ, doing good works, and following the Church is a good start. Purgatory is a reality. Worldly fame and worldly talents are all well and good, but unless they contribute to seeking Heaven, they do nothing to support our true immortality. The fear of death and the unknown should only spur us on to goodness. Living for the hope of Heaven is key to expelling the fear that the realization of our own mortality instigates.