The Way of All Things

Every month, I write a short column for our neighborhood newsletter. Here’s what I offered this month:

Last month the voters of Harris County rejected a referendum to renovate the Astrodome. While there are still many questions about the future of the Astrodome, it appears that imminent demise is the most likely outcome.

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I heard a number of our neighbors take very particular stances on the issue. For some, the Astrodome is part of our Houston heritage, the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” and should be preserved. For others, the amount of money required for overhauling the Astrodome was simply too much.

There is a lesson to be learned from this situation. That lesson, however, is not political or economic. Rather, the lesson to be drawn from the Astrodome’s eventual fate is a spiritual and philosophical one.

Put succinctly, Americans are terrified of death. As a culture, we have sterilized, removed, and shied away from our common end. Medical arts sustain our lives even when death is waiting at the door. People no longer die at home like they would have just a few generations ago. As a society, we even avoid the word “death,” so we have created euphemisms that belie our fear: “passing away,” “going on,” or “went to the pearly gates.”

I am not offended by these euphemisms because I am a Christian. I am offended by these euphemisms because I am a human being. Like it or not, death is the way of all things. Death is part of the human experience. Death is even part of the cosmic experience, as we know that one day even our own sun will die. Denying the presence of death is to shut our eyes to stark reality.

I realize this is not the cheeriest column to fill you with mirth during this holiday season. Yet perhaps you can take this column as an opportunity to become more comfortable with death. For instance, set down your last will and testament. Do not put it off, or make it a New Years’ Resolution that you know you will never complete. When speaking with your children this holiday season, do not resort to banal euphemisms for death. Use the words given to us: die, dying, dead. Putting those words into your vocabulary will make death less of a stranger.

The Astrodome is a reminder that all things die. When the Astrodome opened in 1965 and stunned the world, no one thought that it would meet the wrecking ball in less than fifty years. Yet now the Eighth Wonder of the World stands on the same brink of destruction that we will all face, and we too will succumb. We might miss the Astrodome’s historical, political, or economic value, but that is out of my hands; much like the fact that I, along with everyone I know, will one day meet our end in death.

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