I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. Not my own (since I’m under thirty and therefore invincible, right?), nor am I plotting someone else’s, nor particularly am I dreading other folks’ death. But my grandma died last Thanksgiving. My dad died a couple of years ago. My grandpa died a few years before that, and my uncle, a couple of years again before that. Then there’s the 3 or 4 folks who I went to high school with who’ve died in the ten years since. That’s not to leave out all the folks I’ve known who’ve faced death and yet are still alive.
I’m not the most emotional person – on the spectrum from “completely ruled by your emotions, as though you had no reason at all” at 0 and “robot-like in your cold, unfeeling character” at 100, I score probably around an 80. But for me, people dying has almost no thinking in it, and all feeling.
Beforehand, there’s the feeling of fear (especially if you’ve already gone through these emotions after someone else’s death) that you’re going to go through lots of grief. There’s the incredible sadness and helplessness of seeing them suffer/waste away and not being able to do much about it. There’s the feeling of complete confusion when/if they tell you they’d rather go than stay. There’s the feeling of loss/grief/grieving. Overwhelming loss that rips at you and taunts you with the thought: “They are gone. Gone. No longer to be found.” There’s the feeling of nostalgia, thinking back to good times had and kind words spoken. There’s the feeling of guilt – why didn’t I tell this person:
- How much I loved them?
- About Jesus?
- What a difference they’ve made?
There’s the quite hard-to-grasp feelings of minor consolation that they aren’t still suffering, or that they’re with their Maker. There’s the guilt-shame-and-horror-wracking feelings of believing them to be eternally separated from their perfect Maker. There’s the weird shame that comes with thinking you should be sadder than you are, or that you should miss them more than you do. There’s the selfish relief (and it’s accompanying guilt) that you don’t have to worry about/take care of/work so hard for them now that they’re gone. Sometimes there’s anger at the cause (even if that anger is at something completely futile to be angry with – like old age). Sometimes there’s anger at the person for leaving – because some choose to take their life, and some choose to disregard it’s importance; living in unhealthy ways that take them.
There is always the feeling of helplessness, knowing that you can’t do a single solitary thing about the one issue looming in your head.
So how then, should the person who wants to follow Jesus act, in the face of death, the dying and possible death?