Of course I most certainly don’t give any credibility whatsoever to the dualistic claims of eastern religions and modes of thought which claim that each individual must go through a series of different lifetimes in order to be purged enough so that he may be happy in the next life. Beatle George Harrison may have been quite an absolute expert at music but he got it all wrong when it came to that topic. God puts each of us here for only one opportunity to do the right thing. In that sense my view of life is more linear than cyclical. Whenever a new baby is conceived, God does not insert a new soul into a material container. Each individual is conceived with his body and soul inextricably linked permanently to each other. The Catholic Church has consistently taught that for over two thousand years. “It is appointed unto men to die once but after this comes the judgment.” (Heb. 9:27). That’s where the Four Last Things-Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell-must be dealt with. Once someone has faced up to his Particular Judgment immediately upon his decease, he goes either to Purgatory temporarily, straight to Heaven, or straight to Hell.
I suppose that I have known, since a very early age, of the inevitably of my eventual death. When I was first born I was very sick, with a life-threatening problem, and after effects that lingered all throughout my childhood, so I was constantly reminded of the risk of my early death. The earliest death that really stands out in my mind, in a concrete way, is my Uncle Gino’s when I was a twelve year old kid. As far as I know, there wasn’t any feeling of total awe at my having realized that I would, sooner, or later, be required, by definition, to die. Having always gone to Catholic schools, I was always reminded of it, but it must have inevitably struck me as just some entirely abstract factual reality. Unlike many people I simply don’t have a profoundly cathartic story to tell about how some ultimate moment of truth profoundly changed my life and perception of that specific aspect of reality. Sooner or later, each of us shall be in either Heaven (usually by way of Purgatory), or Hell. That’s the ultimate inevitable eschatological reality of the four last things. Death carries with it at least two main fears for each of us: the fear of all the physical and emotional torment that goes with the end of his life, and the fear of eternal damnation for those who go to hell. I really have to wise up and to start dealing with it in a more first hand manner very soon.