Denial of Death


“Lord, how good that we are here!” (Matthew 17:4).

The most death-denying culture in human history

Dr. Bernard Seltzer, an outstanding surgeon, discovered in midlife that he also had a gift for writing. Among other works, he has written a best-selling book that is being discussed. It is called “Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery.” One of the “mortal lessons” in the book is Dr. Seltzer’s insistence that when death occurs, especially the death of someone we deeply love, it is essential for us to contemplate the dead body as it is—not to turn away from it or to try to disguise it. He says, “He who shrinks from this is like a man who breathes through a handkerchief that has been soaked in vinegar to avoid the rank whiff of the poor.” It is a striking illustration that should capture our attention because various sources tell us that we are the most death-denying culture in all human history. Never in history have people tried harder to avoid the “rank whiff of…

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