O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? -1 Corinthians 15:55
Does death ever get any easier? It does, it can. When I was younger, I just avoided it entirely, and that kind of avoidance tends to breed fear. Death becomes the unknown, so our minds begin to fill in the blanks with imaginary things, usually far worse than the simple truth would ever be.
When I was a child, my grandmother was shot and survived, but for less than a year. She was really my contact with the outside world, the one person who was trying to look after me, so I came to associate death with despair, abandonment, shock, and the cruelty of broken dreams. She survived, everything was going to be okay, only to lose her a few months later.
My dad died suddenly too, without warning, right when he was preparing to come visit me. My dad’s death was shocking, a theft really, more broken dreams, plans that were suddenly snatched away, reality inverted.
I had no idea that long good-byes even existed, that death could be a process, almost merciful with the gift of time it gives. Time to say goodbye, time to say all the things you wanted to say, to share memories, to serve and to love, to care for someone one last time. Painful, sad yes, but merciful in the time it gives you to adjust and process what is a happening. To grieve together.
Before I started caring for people, I had no idea that nobody dies alone, not really, not in a spiritual sense. There’s a presence that comes, a rightness, perfect timing, a keen awareness that nobody really dies unexpectedly. It often feels that way to us on the outside dealing with the force of emotions that tend to hit us all at once, but it isn’t like that at all. The perfect timing of death still astounds me, certainly not our timing, but there’s a rightness there I can often sense and feel.
After I was grown up a friend of mine died after a long illness, a good woman, a saved woman, who suffered in life far more than anyone should ever have to, and when she passed I was sad, and yet joyful too, the kind of joy that reminded me of christening a boat before a cruise, breaking champagne across the bow, and tossing up confetti.
“Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” -Matthew 25:23 That verse is a bit out of context in this sense, but that is how I felt, as if she had just been promoted, gone on a world cruise, entered into the joy of the Lord.
It’s an interesting thing, those of us who are afraid of death are really afraid of life because that’s were all the pain is. We tend to spend our lives staving off death, keeping it at bay, but really we’re afraid of living, far more than dying. I was just thinking of this in the context of faith, in the way Jesus Christ came to give us life and life abundant, and if that is not awesome enough, also to give us eternal life, and yet many people shy away, run, reject the gift. We can chose to embrace life, but death? Well, death just choses you while you’re trying to sit on the fence.