On death and dying

There are times in our lives  when we experience  things in our lives  that we think we understand. I would like  to break  this  down  into two parts.

Firstly we read about something we hear about  something and we  think we know  what  that is  and how  to deal  with it. We have an intellectual knowledge of something. The second is part seeing something first hand and gaining understanding by having an experiential knowledge of something. I am learning at a late stage in my life what that is like.

I have  to come right out and say that I experienced something recently  that I  thought I knew about. I have studied it talked  to people  about it and even trained how  to guide others through but never see n it first hand. At this point I am vulnerable, raw and not quite knowing how  to put the pieces  together so that I might make sense of it in my world.

The title of  this blog is about death and dying  so you might already see where it is  going.  I had  to talk to a friend of mine  who many years ago was instrumental in leading  me in my spiritual walk as a Christian. This friend has been a mentor  to me and put up  with my rebellion my tantrums my stupidity and more than a few embarrassing moments. My friend was always honest  with me and at times brutally blunt which at the time I resented  but we always seemed  to get through it and remain good mates  to use  the Aussie vernacular. I hadn’t been in contact  with him  for many  years and it seemed that God had sent  us in different directions.

So then I reached I crisis point and didn’t know where  to turn when a  thought hit me  to give him a ring and tell him what had happened. So I travelled all  the way back  to the town where I grew up  to spend two days and seek guidance and counselling once more. My advice is always keep an old friend in your back pocket because   you never know  when  you will need  them.

So what happened? About three months ago someone I had known  for about 7 years died and it was  the first time I have seen a dead body. I  wont  go into details  for  the sake of confidentiality but that one experience knocked me  down  so hard it was like having stick a knife in a place   you didn’t know existed and it shattered me.

Some people might shrug it off  and say everyone dies Chris get over it. We joke about dying being a fact of life and we have all known someone  who died. That is intellectual knowledge. We use all  the euphemisms to try and soften  the blow  like “They past away”,  “They went  to sleep”, They aren’t here anymore”, and phrases  like that  to soften  the blow  that death has occurred, they’re gone and they are not coming back. What is left behind  is the shell  that their soul occupied it will decay and return  to the dust from which it came; that is a shocking reality. You know what I mean?… Really?  Do you? I didn’t!

Very often we shelter ourselves and others  from the reality of death by finding ways  to soften  the blow. Death is not something any of us look forward to. We fear the reality of death and whether we admit it or not  we find every way  we can   to lighten  the blow. I am not criticising anyone  for that I now understand why.

My friend is a Minister a counsellor and a retired funeral director he had led many families  over the years  through the grief process. This wise old owl as  someone referred  to him at a bible study one night by a fairly famous preacher was trying  to get our brains around  some difficult bible passage. He knew exactly what I was  going through and it was only by talking it out that I was going to see it for myself.

I had never seen death. I wasn’t prepared to see a dead body laying in a coffin cold shriveled and grey. It was no longer the sweet vibrant intelligent person I knew. To be honest I didn’t want to see a dead body. It wasn’t that I feared death in that sense, my faith in Christ gives me hope that through Him we are more alive than we ever were. Once more that is my intellect not my experience. Our faith is in that thing we hope for which we have not yet seen Hebrews 11:1. Once more that is intellectual but it will become a reality for all believers in Jesus Christ.

 

I have a fairly black and white view of the world and fixed beliefs about what happens when we die but I’m not going to preach hell and brimfire . I wont know until we all stand before God whom are His elect children and who aren’t. It isn’t my place to judge on eternal things. I can only speak on my own behalf and testify that Jesus Christ redeemed my soul from eternal separation from Him for His own glory.

You see now my understanding was experiential not intellectual. My grief regarding death is real it is raw and it is painful (note the present tense). It’s not anyone’s fault that I was sheltered from death. I think in one sense I sheltered myself from death and now wish that it was something I had seen long before now, not out of some morbid fascination but because it’s not something we should be sheltered. Don’t sshelter your families and children from death they will get through it and so will I. Some take better than others; I didn’t.

I am haunted by the picture of that corpse laying there in a coffin, lifeless never to breath again. It pops up in my head at the strangest moments it is hard to erase because I have a fairly good pictorial memory. I am dealing with emotions at a level that are hard to control. I’m fine thinking about it but as soon as I try to talk about it I crumble into an emotional wreck. I don’t how it is for others when they cry but for me crying is physically painful. It is like someone sticking a spear through one temple and out of the other. Every body says it hurts when they cry. It feels like I just smashed my head on the concrete. It’s not that theraputic unless you like being hit in the face with a baseball bat.

So where am I now? Well I’m not looking forward to going through it again any time soon. The fact is however we are all mortal we will face others mortality and eventually we will face our own as well there is no avioding that fact.

Interestingly Jesus cried over his friends death. As the God man He would have seen death many times. Jesus could have prevented his friend Lazarus from dying but he hung back and waited. He arrived to his friends tomb and as it is recorded as the shortest verse in the bible, Jesus wept. Jesus experienced the loss of a friend. Jesus knew Lazarus would die. He could have easily did what he did with the Roman soldier whom showed great faith when he asked Jesus to heal his daughter. He told Jesus that as a Roman officer if he gave a command he had faith in his soldiers that it would be carried out. Jesus praised this soldier for his great faith and told him his child was healed. My point is Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’ death any time he chose to but he didn’t. Jesus had to experience the enormous cost that death has on a person. He is God he knows what death is He knows what it does for others but He had to feel the sorrow and loss that comes with it.

Why? So he could also display the compassion and mercy through His own death on the cross and the promise of eternal life thay he gives to us His children. I think this is a good place to close but I want to leave you with a hymn I love that I once had the honour of singing beofe my church family

 

“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”
by Edward Mote, 1797-1874

  1. My hope is built on nothing less
    Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
    I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
    But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
    On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
    All other ground is sinking sand.
  2. When darkness veils His lovely face,
    I rest on His unchanging grace;
    In every high and stormy gale
    My anchor holds within the veil.
    On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
    All other ground is sinking sand.
  3. His oath, His covenant, and blood
    Support me in the whelming flood;
    When every earthly prop gives way,
    He then is all my Hope and Stay.
    On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
    All other ground is sinking sand.
  4. When He shall come with trumpet sound,
    Oh, may I then in Him be found,
    Clothed in His righteousness alone,
    Faultless to stand before the throne!
    On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
    All other ground is sinking sand.
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