An Exegesis of To The Moon (Part 3) – Death & Mortality

[Part 1 here. Part 2 here.]

to the moon

Johnny Wyles lay dying on his bed.  Dr Eva Rosalene and Dr Neil Watts rushed to his bedside to fulfill his dying wish – to make him dream of accomplishing the most important thing he failed to do in real life, and thus die a happy man.  [Spoilers] Eventually they succeeded, and Johnny died a happy man.

It is unquestioned by the game that what Eva and Neil do is beneficial and compassionate to Johnny. Late in the Neil had an emotional argument with Eva and said that he liked his job because he found it meaningful to help the dying this way. At the climax of the story [spoilers, duh] when Neil and Eva disagreed on how they should interfere with Johnny’s memories, it felt like a serious and weighty issue because this would be Johnny’s last conscious experience, and how that plays out feels weighty and important.

Here’s an apparently dumb question: why are our dying moments so weighty and important? Should it really be so? What makes them any weightier than any other moments of our lives? Is the middle 30 minutes of our lives less significant than the last 30 minutes of our lives? If so, why? 30 minutes is 30 minutes right?

The answer of course, has much to do with how we view mortality and dying. [It’s also got much to do with what makes our lives meaningful, but we will discuss that further in Part 4, God willing.] It isn’t immediately obvious, but the worldview presented by To The Moon is distinctly humanistic – when Johnny dies, it is implied his consciousness just disappears.  There is no hint of an afterlife whatsoever.  Yet his life is presented as intrinsically valuable and important. His dying moments represent the time just before something immensely valuable and important (i.e. life) is about to go out of existence. This is what makes a person’s dying moments weighty and precious.

Such a worldview is so subsumed into our culture that many Christians might even think it incredulous to be otherwise. Certainly, human life is immensely valuable and important. Certainly, a man’s dying moments are extra precious. Both statements are certainly true, but a Christian’s reasons for believing so are vastly different from a humanist’s. The way a Christian thinks about death has to be vastly different.

Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

(Philippians 1:18-23)

As a Christian, I believe that this earthly life is not my final destination. There is a far greater and much more wonderful place where all my longings will cease and all my desires will be fulfilled. And my death will be the first step there. Yet, like most Christians I suspect, I often forget this. I get attached to this world and I don’t want to leave it.

Christians believe that when we die, we do not go out of existence. Sure, there is sadness when loved ones pass on, but the sadness is not due to their existence being terminated, but because the presence of loved ones will be missed, and only missed temporarily if they also happen to be Christians. Christians believe that we should continue acts of compassion to the dying not because something immensely precious is going out of existence soon, but because we are called to love and comfort those in need – and often the dying are the most in need. Christians believe that human life is valuable not because human life is the most precious and valuable thing in the world, but because humans are made in the image of God, and God is the most precious and valuable entity in the world.

NBA star Dwight Howard and terminally ill Kay Kellog (who has since passed). One of my favorite stories of reaching out to the dying.

NBA star Dwight Howard and terminally ill Kay Kellog (who has since passed). One of my favorite stories of reaching out to the dying.

When Christians lay dying on their bed, unlike Johnny Wyles, they shouldn’t have to seek happiness on their deathbed. They shouldn’t have to seek to live out an artificially created reality where they can deceive themselves into a few final moments of temporal happiness.  That’s because they already have assurance of an eternal happiness which awaits them on the other side.

I hope and pray that if one day I lay dying on my bed, I may be so filled with gratitude of what God has done for me and so filled with anticipation of being with Jesus that I have no choice but to be happy. I hope and pray that each and every day, I can fight to remember that this world is not my home, and that my heart will fight to truly believe: to die is gain.

There is a hope that stands the test of time,
That lifts my eyes beyond the beckoning grave,
To see the matchless beauty of a day divine
When I behold His face!
When sufferings cease and sorrows die,
And every longing satisfied.
Then joy unspeakable will flood my soul,
For I am truly home