For whom is death easier to accept?

Fr Andrzej Przybylski

Father, I do not know if you are going to believe me but I know numerous young people who think about death. This theme is not 'reserved' for the old. Did you think about death when you were younger? Recently I have been wondering for whom death is easier to accept - a believer or an atheist. A Catholic who believes in Christ knows that death is connected with judgement and the awareness that each person has some sins can increase our fear of death even more. Someone who does not believe in anything, for whom heaven, hell and judgement do not exist, there is simply nothing, can accept death easier because he treats it as a natural and ordinary end of life. Who dies easier: a believer or an atheist?

I want to say frankly that for the first time in my lie I thought about death in a rather strange situation. When I was in high school my classmate and I managed to use the phone and we called people randomly trying to frighten them. After a few calls, when again I told someone in a snooty and hoarse voice: 'you will die', my interlocutor answered peacefully 'so will you'. This stupid game made me aware that death concerned me, too. As far as the difference in the attitude towards death between a believer and a non-believer is concerned I cannot give you an exact answer. I cannot even imagine there is nothing after death. On the other hand, I know you die with Christ in a different way, you pass through an opened gate, go through something unknown with Someone who has already taken that way. I have no imagination whatsoever how a man can die without Christ. This must be a nightmare. In my priestly ministry I remember being called to see a dying woman. She was baptised, took the First Communion, and might have been confirmed, but she rejected Christ all her life, did not pray, and did not receive sacraments. In her life she was concerned with vast wealth and care to secure her children's future. She had bone cancer. Terrible pain and death agony. As a young priest I was helpless when I saw her. What could you tell a woman about death if you did not know whether she believed in heaven, God or salvation? Fortunately, it was her that began to speak. She said the following words, 'I asked you to come because I never thought that man could be so lonely at the moment of death and so much paralysed by fear that he dies in vacuum and the feeling that what he fought for in his life turned out to be quite useless. Father, see what education I provided my son with, and although he is a physician he cannot save me from death. We have built this lovely big house, we bought this magnificent furniture and that does not make me suffer less but only irritates me and make me feel remorse that I could have helped many people for all that money I spent out of vanity. Yesterday I thought that I would die and I ordered things for my death. My nurse put everything on the chair at my bed. Please look at the chair. I have always had so many things and now I need so little. That horrified me, the fact that I have not anything to take with me for my death, that my life has been so empty. I was frightened that after my death I would open my eyes and see darkness. Father, you cannot imagine my fears. I understood that when I died I would have to open my eyes in spite of the fact that I closed them. Please hear my confession because I do not want to face terrible darkness after my death'. That woman died with great peace in her heart. I know that her death was easier because of that conversion.

"Niedziela" 44/2005

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: