Pastoral Care, Chapter 8: Death is a Reality, Not a Threat – Part 4

What is the difference, let me ask, between a terminally-ill person and you and me? I have visited persons who are terminally ill who, when I have left their room and was on my way home, I was so convinced that they were dying that I expected the next phone call to say, “Will you come back and help us make plans for the funeral?” When I picked up the phone, however, it was not from that family at all. The call was from a family who was saying that someone, who when I last saw him was the very picture of health, had died with a heart attack or in an accident. I have talked with those who have been told that they have only a few months to live who have lived for years; and I have talked with those who have thought they had years and forever to live but whose life was gone in an instant. I have stood beside the grave, on the same day, of a six month old baby and a ninety-two year old man.

The reality of death, then, is not just for those who are terminally ill or the elderly who have some idea of the possibility of death. There are no “ifs” – only “whens.” And it is when we move from the level of accepting the physical reality of death in general, to accepting the reality of our own dying, that we can be responsible in the handling of it. I have known persons who would not write a will, because they thought it was morbid, or some who would not take out life insurance because they say, “I am going to take care of my family in another way.” I have dealt many times with families who do not have the first idea of what a funeral is or how you go about planning it.

As Christians, above all people, we should be able to accept the reality of death as an event in the experience of every human being, because we deal not only with the reality of the physical experience, we have the reality of our faith. Remember these words: “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He has loved us, even when we were (as good as) dead in our trespasses and sins, has made us alive together in Christ … You He made alive.”

Remember the words of Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” The one thing to which I would like to call to your attention is that neither one of them spoke in terms of the future. Read them again. Paul said, “You He made alive.” He did not say, “You He will make alive.” Jesus said, “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die… Because I live, you shall live also.”

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