I hate death!
It’s not that I’m afraid of dying, I often look forward to it. But what death does to other people is inappropriate.
On January 24th, my brother in-law died of a sudden heart attack. Of course that left my sister, two daughters and a grandson to somehow make sense of it all. The man was much younger than I, but had suffered for quite some time with certain complications from diabetes. Yet, how ironic that it was a heart attack that prompted the bell to toll.
As I pondered this all, I found myself wondering a good deal about Russ. We were never really close – but then my sister and I were never really close. When I would visit my mom he and I would exchange pleasantries but that was about it. So his death really doesn’t impact me much personally – but it does my sister and I take that very personal. Even more to the point, Russ was not a believer. He had a belief system, make no mistake about it, but it was not one directed toward God. He might have been classified as an agnostic more than an atheist, yet I’m not sure where that line gets drawn. Consequently, punching a ticket at the gates of the Almighty is not really an option, unless of course, one is a universalist and then – well, we’ll not go there.
Continuing to ponder, I thought what does one say at a memorial service for such an individual? There could be the “house” chaplain used by the funeral home for those with no church affiliation. One can just imagine his words citing traditional scripture about “let not your heart be troubled…” or “yea, though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death…” All in all pretty generic and non-committal. Then there could be the local pastor who seizes the opportunity as a venue to preach the gospel and save some sinners! When you net it out, although he’d never say it, the premise is pretty simple, “don’t die without Jesus like this poor man might have done!” Then there could be someone who takes a more philosophical tone. You know – presenting Pascal’s wager theory and convincing people that even if they don’t have a personal faith, living a life as though there were a God is much better odds than living as though there were no God and getting to the end and finding out there is! It think that would be the track I’d take.
Funerals and memorial services are never really for the person who has died. They don’t know and don’t care who showed up and what was said – at least at that point they don’t. It’s really for the people left behind. To somehow bring them a sense of this is how you continue life without this person being a part of it. The sad thing is, many people never learn to move on. They get stuck in the overwhelming grief of the death event itself. They try to continue to hang on when there is really nothing – strike that – no one to hang on to. At least the person they want to hang on to. My wife and I have had this discussion more than once. We insist that each other move on. That doesn’t necessarily mean marry again, or never acknowledge our lives together, it simply means to get on with it. Death happens. It stings, it stinks, it can be overwhelming. But it’s only the “end” for one party.
We’re all born under the umbrella of death. We were never created to be eternal beings. We might have the privilege of eternal life after death but not dying was never the intent from creation.
My heart hurts deeply for my sister. This is going to be one of her toughest challenges. They dated in high school, married and have been hopelessly devoted to one another since that day. They have gone through some tough times lately, but their commitment to one another has never wavered. Now they’ll not have each other to cling to and that stinks!