Death sucks. But death is inevitable. It happens to everybody. There's no exceptions.
Yet for senior citizens like me -- I'm 69 -- we've had many years of living that make our eventual demise seem, if not appealing, at least part of the natural course of things.
A child's death, though... that's a whole different thing.
Today I read a story in our local newspaper, the Salem Statesman Journal, about the death of a 14-year-old boy from a rare form of bone cancer.
It was heartbreaking.
Jack Schumacher lived for baseball. He was good at math, loved LEGOs and loved his family.
A year ago, the Straub Middle School student was honing his pitching skills at Capitol City Sports, and looking forward to summer.
Then, a nagging pain began in his left hip. Within three months, there was a diagnosis: Osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer. Four months later, he learned there was no hope.
“What he was truly facing was his own mortality, knowing he was going to die,” said his mother, Tammi Huber.
There were tears, there was anger, there was questioning, Huber said. But by the time Jack died at 14, on May 18, he had come to terms with it.
That's inspiring, courageous, exemplary. The story explains one of the reasons Jack was able to face death with equanimity. Huber is Jack's mother.
Jack spent a lot of time talking about the afterlife, Huber said. And by the time he died, in her arms on May 18, he had made peace with it.
I'm an atheist. I don't believe in God. I don't believe in an afterlife. But I can totally understand why a 14-year-old boy dying of bone cancer that has spread throughout his body would want to envision himself living on after he takes his last breath.
In fact, I can understand why anybody facing death would seek solace in what almost certainly is a fantasy, albeit a comforting one.
Understand: I'm not saying that all atheists, or even most of them, experience death bed conversions. This simply isn't the case.
I'm simply pointing out the obvious: that a major appeal of religions is the reassurance they offer about death being not an end to existence, but the beginning of another form of life.
This doesn't make an afterlife true. It just makes an afterlife a comforting belief.
And the question of why God allows children to die remains unanswered. This is part of the broader question of theodicy, how a good God permits the manifestation of evil.
Us atheists have an easy response. God doesn't exist, so there is no problem with bad things happening in the world. That's just the nature of reality. Pain, suffering, death, and other nasty stuff simply accompany living because this is how things are.
End of story.