Death and Dying

This morning I woke to emails from two dear friends on different sides of the country. Each were orphaned yesterday with the passing of their one remaining parent, and I feel the weight of their sadness because they are my friends.

I also feel keenly my own billowing sadness as I watch my parents age.  I know, in a way I didn’t use to, that their passing is inevitable, each in their own turn and in their own way.  I’m not ready.

Dying is such a mystery. It makes me tremble just a bit. Not so much from fear, but from the enormity of it. Ultimately, I feel in my bones that we are born of Love –  and to Love we will return. I somehow can’t stop believing that God is, in some way that we can only begin to fathom, a relational wholeness, a bright communion, an astonishing, unrestrained mutuality. Life is simply a going out from, and a free returning to that Love who is our truest home. Therefore, all of life is a pilgrimage, and the dying part is no more,  or less, an integral part of that journey than our birth is (if only we have the eyes to see it.)

Death, however, is a different thing. Death is the brokeness and alienation we live with our whole lives. Death is our daily reality. We know it in our own selfishness and our petty disputes. We know it in those inordinate desires that keep us tethered to institutions and ideologies that harm others and harm creation.  We know it in our damaged and damaging relationships. We know it in our resentments and our wars. Death has a particular smell to it that dying doesn’t.

For example, this morning I also woke to the news that 800,000 Americans don’t have a job to go to because of the irreconcilability of ruthless ideologues (both sides).  This has the distinct smell of death to it. It smells of alienation, mistrust, powerlust, self-aggrandizement. And people suffer.

In the wee hours of this morning, the weight of it all seemed unusualy heavy. And tears fell. But not so much at the passing of Glen’s dad, or David’s mom. Their lives were fecund and bore the evidence of the home they now know so profoundly. They’ve been freed from death.

My tears fall for the rest of us. I’m so deeply sorry for the death that we seem so eager to participate in.

Jesus’ words ring out, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

I would inlcude myself in the “them.”


Please note that I haven’t offered an opinion about details of the current impass in the US – that’s not what this entry is about and I won’t approve comments that attempt to hijack the blog.