Monday, November 5, 2007

When Someone Dies...

I have had occasion to think about death lately. There are several reasons that I have been thinking about the end of life and the afterlife, but suffice it to say that death has come closer than I like.

I have tried to look at death objectively: It happens to all people. But that does not seem to help at all. I encourage people to avoid it. Like the rest of America I am somewhat obsessed with delaying death as long as possible. To that end I check my blood pressure, cholesterol and other statistics pretty regularly. I admonish friends and loved ones to see a physician frequently. I do not like dealing with death.

But the other side of the equation is that I do deal with death a lot. I am a pastor, after all. I attend funerals and preside over them rather frequently. I am comfortable in funeral homes, hearses and cemeteries. I like funeral directors. I even get a certain amount of satisfaction from ministering to grieving families. It is very fulfilling for me.

I have made some observations about death, dying and funerals.
  • People who attend funerals, particularly families and friends of the deceased, are very open to hearing about Jesus. In fact, they expect and appreciate it.
  • People who are grieving do not necessarily want to hear someone spouting pat answers about the afterlife. Sometimes the most important thing to offer is a warm embrace, a listening ear and an open heart.
  • Those who have died do not haunt places, people or objects. I know that when I leave this world I will not be hanging around spiritually.
  • A deceased person does not become an angel. Angels are a completely separate entity of creation. Humans will eternally be humans. Angels will eternally be angels.
  • Living a good life is commendable, but it will not get you to heaven when you die.
  • The most important thing that you can do for someone in grief, is to "be there."
  • Understand that everyone expresses grief in different ways. Just because the wife of the deceased is not crying does not mean that she is not grieving, or that she did not care.
  • Grieving, visiting, funerals, meals, wakes and burials all take time. Do not rush through them.
  • Life is too short to take anyone you love or anything you enjoy for granted.

I will die someday. I hope that it is many years from now, but I will die. The end is coming and may be very near. I am going to be careful for the rest of my life, to live as though I might die tomorrow, but to plan for living forever.

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