A Touch of Death

July 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm (Culture, Death, Devotional, Philosophy, Relationships, Religious Commentary) (, , , , , , , , )

When I was 15 years old, 3 students I went to high school with died within 4 days of each other. I attended funerals and memorials and grieved with my classmates. It wasn’t that they were close friends. I knew them through loose associations at school, but I cried because that week myself along with 1,600 other students were forced to acknowledge that death didn’t just come knocking for the old. In fact he seemed to show no discretion at all. Age didn’t matter. Color didn’t matter. Socioeconomic background didn’t matter. That happened nearly 14 years ago, but I still remember parts of that week vividly: the announcement on the overhead, informing us what happened; crying to the song, “He Won’t Let You Go” by The Kry and hoping fervently that each of these students encountered Jesus before their deaths; being pulled out of Drivers’ Ed in the middle of the period because 40 grieving family members showed up for the prayer circle I had organized at lunch; feeling the collective grief as students who would never associate with one another prayed together; weeping as a girl cried out, “Jesus please stop taking my friends!”

It was a horrific week, but it left me with a deep, never-receding impression that everyone should have a touch of death in their lives. Living in this world can become so terribly busy, with endless tasks, constant pressures and ever-mounting stresses that it can become easy to lose sight of what truly matters in life. Perspectives become skewed as planners become packed with what amounts to in the end as white noise.

But if you’ve ever lost someone you love, every single problem, worry and tremendously important task that you must devote your time to is suddenly thrown into a new light. All at once you are able to view your life through the clarifying lens of mortality. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to be morbid. Though the world we dwell in is transitory, it becomes quite easy to get caught up in it, wrapped up in the worries as well as the rewards the world offers. I found out at a young age that CEASING my striving and visiting those hurting, dying, to attend memorials (even if I had “better” plans), to support and pray for grieving family members and friends, causes a very necessary alteration in my spirit. Remembering that life is finite, that all of our days are numbered, thinking about the idea of eternity, of God and that one day it will be my turn, sobers the course of my life and causes me to see with precision where I should be placing my extra time, energy and effort.

God has ordained all things. Life, death and all that lay in between. Regarding how the living should handle death, He has much to say. But out of everything He communicates on this topic, this has always been the most powerful take-away for me:

“A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” – Ecclesiastes 7:1-4

I must end with one ancedote. This post was spurred on because today I visited a woman I’ve known for years who is in her last hours of life. I went with some of my family members and we prayed with her, sang to her, held her hand, hugged her daughter and recalled stories about her past kindesses and forgiving spirit.

All the while, she was on a great deal of pain medication and she did not appear to be conscious. Before I left, I took her hand, kissed her forehead and told her that I loved her and I would see her again – just not in this world. Her hand suddenly held mine tight and she would not let go. I felt certain that she had both heard and understood what I had said. Her daughter leaned close to her and said, “Pastor Marty and his family are going to go now, okay?”

And then it happened. This beautiful saint gets a huge smile on her face and without even opening her eyes, said the first clear word I had heard her say since we arrived: “No!” We all started to smile and laugh and loved her even more for her good-humour even in her final moments. She smiled along with us and had clarity for a few moments before drifting back into a medication daze.

We oft spend all our lives desperately trying to avoid anything serious. No serious conversations, serious relationships – heck, I even know people who consistently avoid serious movies! One has to wonder what we are trying to hide ourselves from through this constant avoidance of anything somber. Face the serious moments. Embrace the contemplation that will inevitably come thereby. Busyness can be regrettable, but making time for others’ pain is a labour of redemption that the soul requires.

1 Comment

  1. winnergirl91 said,

    I read this and completely lost myself. I know exactly what you are saying. Thankyou for putting it into words for me.

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