Having conducted seven funerals over the last two months, a number of things have been impressed on me regarding death.
1. Folk are involved. This is a truism but what I mean is there are so many people involved when death occurs. Families, friends and neighbours, colleagues, nursing and care staff, funeral directors, Council registration officials and council amenity staff also. Death has this way of obliging people to be involved with one another. It has a strange way of reminding us that humanity is connected in more ways than we might imagine.
2. Feelings are impacted. Often secular poems try to minimise or sanitise the emotional impact that death has in words such as ‘Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there. I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glints on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain’ or again in words like ‘Death is nothing at all, I have only slipped away into the next room I am I and you are you. Whatever we were to each other that we are still. Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way you always used. Put no difference into your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we always enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me’. What these excerpts from poems have in common is they both deny the very real, raw and shocking emotional impact that death has in all its finality and ferociousness. To deny this is to deny something intrinsic to the fact that we are made in the image of God and that is why death hurts. Jesus Himself stood at a grave and wept tears of sadness and anger because of the assault upon humanity that death is (John 11:33-35).
3. Faith is investigated. Death makes us think and ask questions about life, death and after death. I am so thankful that I can and do point people to Jesus who openly and honestly addresses the questions often arising out of broken hearts and dazed minds. He said ‘I am the resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live even though they die. And he that lives and believes in me will never die (John 11:25). He not only has the answers. He is the answer.
4. Fears are dispelled. Because Jesus conquered death and the grave and rose victorious, ‘all fears are gone’ as the hymn writer says. Psalm 23:4 says ‘even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear nothing for you are with me’. He calls us to follow Him by faith, and by so doing we need fear nothing.
Your friend and Pastor
Rev Colin MacLeod