I have been thinking quite a bit about death recently. Not to be morbid or gloomy but life is touched by the reality of death every day. Every one of us is going to die one day. We will leave this earth and our loved ones behind us and go on to our eternal state.
Since my Mom passed on a year and a half ago, I have been more preoccupied with thoughts of losing people we love and how that affects us. Not only the end result, but the process of dying and all that it entails.
Death is such a ripping and cruel act. It feels so personal…the devastation brought by it’s visitation to our homes is really unparalleled. We cannot hold it off, we cannot keep it out. There is no amount of blood over the lintel that will ward it off as it was on the Passover. When death comes, it comes – ready or not.
When a loved one is suffering, we attempt to greet it as a friend or welcome reprieve for them from the misery and pain that characterizes their lives. Even though we know that our pain will begin when their ends.
If death visits unexpectedly, such as a car wreck in the wee hours of the night or a heart attack, it attacks so swiftly that before we can recognize it for what it is it has left taking our loved one along. We remain behind stunned, slack jawed, in shock that a life so alive and vibrant could be snuffed out in such a brief twinkle of time.
In either case, our void is vast and immediate. We find ourselves speaking of our departed loved one in the present to past tense, beginning by saying things such as, “Mother loves…loved roses.” Our minds must be bent around the reality that he or she is not on vacation and has not run away from home. They are gone from this life- permanently.
We memorialize them in slide shows and songs, we choose to focus on every strength and positive quality they possessed. Their less than honorable qualities become stories we find a way to weave into the lore that becomes their legacy.
Once death happens, life happens again too. Life happens for the deceased, who goes on to live in one of two manners: eternal bliss with God in Christ, or eternal torment being separated from God for eternity. Life happens for those left behind too. Life resumes at some sort of “normal” pace eventually.
C.S. Lewis chronicled grappling with the loss of his beloved wife Joy (H.) in his book, A Grief Observed. I find his honesty and starkness refreshing in a world where so many Christians want to sanitize their grief in platitudes.
He writes, “It is hard to have patience with people who say, ‘There is no death’ or ‘Death doesn’t matter.’ There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn’t matter. I look up at the night sky. Is anything more cetain than that in all those vast times and spaces, if I were allowed to search them, I should nowhere find her face, her voice, her touch? She died, she is dead. Is the word so difficult to learn?
I have no photograph of her that’s any good. I cannot even see her face distinctly in my imagination, Yest the odd face of some stranger seen in a crown this morning may come before me in vivid perfection the moment I close my eyes tonight. No doubt, the explanation is simple enough. We have seen the faces of those we know best so variously, from so many angles, in so many lights, with so many expressions- waking, sleeping, laughing crying, eating, talking, thinking- that all the impressions crowd into our memory together an cancel out into a mere blur. But her voice is still vivid. The remembered voice- that can turn me at any moment into a whimpering child.”
It is alright to grieve hard, to mourn the complete and total loss of one who has meant so much to you in your life. It is not un-Christian, it is not selfish, it is not sinful. Grieve them as though you loved them.