Conversing about Death

In my line of work this topic comes up quite a bit, especially when people are facing the inevitability that their life will end. Death, it’s not a subject we are comfortable with and yet it’s something we will all face one day. Like it or not, we are not immortal, our bodies wonderful machines they may be are not impervious to disease, accidents or aging. Many of the conversations I have with people about death usually comes when it is a reality in their lives. The death of a spouse, parent or child are difficult and can make for some very hard discussions. I’ve talked with people who are angry with God, with me, with the church, and with the medical staff for failing to provide that one great miracle.

The usual conversations always include questions of heaven and whether or not their loved one will be there. Even the most difficult of people, those whose lives are less than exemplary, want to know that they are destined for paradise rather than being issued a red union suit with pitchfork. What I try to tell them is that it’s really not my decision where they end up after death, but what is more important is what they do in their life.

We are all born and we all die, that’s a fact, what matters is what we do in the years in between no matter how many we are given. All life is a gift and even if you are here for only moments or many years, your life has touched someone. We do not live in a vacuum and Milton was right, “No man (or woman) is an island,” our very existence in and of itself has an impact on others, whether we know them or not.

Yesterday, I did the funeral for a man who had a large impact on many people. By our standards this was a large funeral with over 200 people paying their respects at this mans wake and many then attending the service at church. He had fought a long, hard battle against cancer and finally he could no longer continue. As people spoke about his life and what he accomplished I was struck by a story his daughter told of the day he rescued two young boys from drowning. Two lives saved, two stories continued all because this one man happened to be at the right place at the right time. Not only that, for whatever reason, at that moment he decided to shed any fears he may have held and took the risk to save those boys.

Yes, life does matter and what we do and who we touch has a profound impact on the world around us. Death never does separate us from the living, in this case two lives continue to thrive and make their own impact on others. The gift he gave continues to give and one day many years from now a family with younsters will tell the story of how their great-grandparents were saved by a man who risked it all to jump in that lake. The conversation will continue and life will carry on.


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