friend” is some sort of a sentimental beautification of what is inrnreality an ordeal.rnIt is worth remembering that in the Christian story, even Jesusrnhimself prayed, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me”rn(Matthew 26:39). Even the Apostle Paul, who wrote, “To die isrngain . . . and to be with Christ, which is far better [than continuingrnin life]” (Philippians 1:21, 23), called death “The last enemyrnthat shall be destroyed” (I Corinthians 15:26).rnTurning death into “as natural a part of life as birth,” andrncalling it “a friend” without reference to salvation and eternalrnlife, is only the mildest expression of the new thanatophilia,rnwhich is making death the goal and the greatest achievementrnof godless secular man. Does it seem strange to call death—rnwhich actually not one of us can evade—an achievement, arn”constitutional right”? It may be strange, but it is the hiddenrnreality of a society that regards it as “a triumph of the humanrnspirit” (Lawrence Lader’s expression) to bring about the deathrnof one-third of each new generation before birth.rnIn an eariier day, death was accompanied by spiritual andrnsacramental ministries, but they served life, not death. Thernpriest or minister came to the bedside—if need be, to the scaffold.rnHe could not avert death, but he did not embrace it. Hisrntask was to help the dying person get through “Jordan’s water,rnchilly and cold,” not to drown him in it. In the middle of thern20th century, people began to note the way in which medicinernwas supplanting religion at the bedside. In those years, however,rnthe physicians at first fought death, then, when it becamerninevitable, tried to make its final throes easier to endure. Theyrnhad not yet learned, as more and more are doing today, to addrnto the healing arts a kind of ministry to death.rnThe medicalization of capital punishment should have givenrnus a clue to what was coming. Earlier in the century, the traditionalrnAmerican method of hanging was found too brutalrnand, above all, unscientific—new, more complicated methods.rnthe electric chair and the gas chamber, were introduced. Thern”assistance” of a physician was necessary only to confirm thernobvious, the death of the victim. In the last quarter of the century,rnthe revulsion against capital punishment as the taking ofrnhuman life was reinforced by the apparent mechanical crueltyrnof the method, and an ominous solution was found: bring inrnthe physicians, and medicalize death. Lethal injection has becomernthe “treatment of choice” for condemned criminals inrnmany states, and the outcry against capital punishment has diminished.rnLethal injection—the sacrament of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, thernhigh priest of physician-assisted suicide—is becoming therntreatment of choice for the dying; indeed, not only for the dying,rnbut for the chronically ill, the severely handicapped, evenrnthe depressed and disconsolate. The fact that the same meansrnof dispatch is applied, after seemingly endless appeals and delays,rnto the convicted murderer, and without much discussionrnor delay to the innocent but severely ill patient, surely tells usrnsomething significant about our society. There is no longerrnany real distinction between good and evil. One man “merits”rnhis lethal injection by multiple murders, the other simply byrnbeing old, in pain, and a drain on society.rnCorruptio optimi pessimum est, the Latin proverb has it: therncorruption of the best is the worst. The sacraments of thernChristian religion, properly understood, form a kind of symbolicrnbridge between the beginnings of mortal life here on earth,rnover the dark valley of the shadow of death, into the life thatrnhas no end. When the strength of the faith ebbs, as it has beenrndoing for so many decades, the sacramental idea remains, butrnit is converted into a hollow counterfeit. Sacraments no longerrnsymbolize the promise of God to preserve thy body and soulrnunto life, but simply mark the end of a road, “No Exit,” as Jean-rnPaul Sartre wrote.rnBradford Pear Treesrnby John Nixon, Jr.rnNot Burbank but Seurat, I think, designedrnThese trees—one carefully placed dot of greenrnEor each incredibly neat leaf—the whole.rnBuilding to perfect cones. A nonsurprisernWould be a small impressionistic bird,rnA winged dot, weaving a dotted nestrnI ligh in the symmetry. Or, better still,rnA female stroller, elegant in dotsrnFrom spats to bustle then to parasol.rnMight pause here in the shade, allow some tallrnYoung gentleman to tip his dotted hat.rn18/CHRONICLESrnrnrn