What would it be like to have your death be the best thing you ever did in your life?
I was struck by the thought while reflecting on the carnage of 300. You see, it was the three hundred's death that fueled the raging hearts of those who later took arms and carried on their fight. Same with William Wallace. He died but his cause flared to life in each of his people. By themselves they probably could have led their sides to victory, but in dying, they made that probability into a certainty.
Yes, what made their deaths so inspiring and significant was, in fact, what they did while they were alive and what they stood for. But it was dying itself that gave the most impact.
Look at Ninoy. I think it's fair to say that if he wasn't assassinated, there would be no People Power 1. Imagine if he lived, and went on to battle Marcos through laws and politics, etc. Could he have been as successful? Could he have filled the masses with the necessary fervor to struggle against the dictatorial oppression? If he himself urged the people to rally in EDSA, how many would've come?
Rizal chose to die at the hands of the Spanish government. He was offered escape by Bonifacio while in Dapitan. Known then for his fierce patriotism through his writings, he was also asked to lead the revolt against the Spaniards. Yet he said no to both. He himself knew that the best contribution he could ever give to win their freedom was to pave the way with his blood. (see bottom for disclaimer)
Then there's also Jesus. His teachings and miracles that are told in every Bible will shape humanity's morality and goodwill forever. But even as God on Earth, it is his death as Man, to redeem our lecherous and sinful souls, that stands as the most important. (see bottom also for second disclaimer)
Others in history have done the same. But there are also countless forgotten ones who died to save a life. Heroic acts that, while they may not be recorded for future generations to know, will always live on in the hearts of those they saved.
I'm still stuck on how it would feel, to be a Leonidas or a Ninoy, after they died. Not being around to taste the sweetness of victory, but a grateful memory to those who are.
Disclaimer 1: Sir Joel's lessons come to mind. That Rizal was chosen by the Americans as our national hero to pacify us during their occupation instead of Bonifacio. A peaceful, anti-violence advocate versus an aggressive, guerilla-trained war leader. Maybe all that story about Rizal's sacrifice are just hodgepodge but we'll never know.
Disclaimer 2: Of course this assumes you are Catholic. Or Christian at least. (How does Jesus feel about all these stupid denominations and factions each advertising their own interpretation of His faith?)