Death and Dying

IMG_0135 (3) Mom's grave stoneI have had to deal with the reality of death and dying a lot lately. Growing up I rarely knew anyone who died; I was shielded from death as much as possible. So the reality facing me now is something I have had very little practical experience with, but I am learning a lot, fast. As a matter of fact, I feel very much like I am in a crash course of “End of Life Reality 101”. Everyone has to deal with their own mortality in their own way, but here are a few things I have learned.

1) Honesty helps pave the path for decisions which must be made. It is very hard to face death, your own or the death of someone you love, but pretending that death can’t happen or isn’t an option puts it in the back of your mind as a sort of “boggy man” that will haunt your nights. Facing your fears and coming to terms with the reality of death actually helps to bring real peace to an otherwise traumatic situation.

2) Grief is healthy and does not imply a lack of faith or trust in God. Losing a loved one or facing your own end on this journey in this earthly life is very, very difficult even when the death may be long expected and relatively painless. Frankly I have found that it is sometimes easier to grieve with a non-family member who understands the situation but is not too close simply because they can grieve with you but not fall apart in the process. God grants us these wonderful friends who can be intermediaries and help us over the rough parts, to answer the troubling questions we struggle with, and support us as we endure the pain and confusion we may be feeling.

3) Death happens for a reason. I know my atheist friends will disagree, but I see a justice and logic in reference to the fact that this life is temporary and that we move on after a time towards something beyond our present sight. There are all sorts of ways to die and some of them are miserable but even when physical suffering assaults us we have recourse to prayer, hope and faith. Earthly suffering will not last. There is a reason why were brought into existence and there is a reason why we are called to move on. The fact that we do not have the answers to all our questions right now does not mean there are no answers.

4) Faith in God makes a great deal of difference in the end. I have had friends and family members who died in close relationships with God and others who didn’t know who they were or what they thought when they died. I am living through the death process with others – some with faith and some without. I know how brave and angry and convicted a person can be who says he or she does not need God, but I also know how vulnerable a person becomes as they die – especially facing a slow painful death. Allowing yourself to be open to God’s grace in the death and dying process is a gift which repays more than words will ever be able to say. God can take a hard reality and bring joy and peace to the heart like nothing else. There is no doctor, medicine or drug that can replace the solace of a real encounter with God.

Death is real and it happens to us all, no surprise, but in a way I think it is the most ignored fact on the planet. We pack our bags for all sorts of trips, but too often we forget to pack our souls with experiences with our Creator. When we take this last journey into the next world, we don’t to go with nothing more than the hope of meeting a stranger.

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