Editor’s Note: This post first appeared February 11, 2011
Describing—let alone defining—the act of death is a fool’s errand. After all, how does one speak of eternity, whether spent in unremembered inky nothingness or fluttering around on angelic wings?
Still, some of us come closer than others in peaking behind the epistemological, spiritual and otherwise cosmological curtain separating the living from the dead. I’ve always liked the term “the sweet hereafter,” even if it’s hard to beat German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who called death “the supreme festival on the road to freedom.” Though a little on the cheery side, it’s important to note that Bonhoeffer did not suffer fools (or evil) gladly, and for his candor on matters ecclesiastical and political was executed by the Nazis at the Flossenburg concentration camp, weeks before its liberation by Allied troops.