Had a business meeting this morning at the church. We seem to have a lot of those throughout this whole process of building a church. There’s always an issue of money or construction or some important decision that needs to be made. Today was one of those meetings.
The person I was meeting with was quite a bit older than I am. He’s lived a lot of life and the hope is that his perspective on some financial issues would be helpful to the congregation. This is someone I greatly appreciate and we were left making some small talk as we waited for the other parties to arrive. It seems this person had just lost a friend of his…someone he had known in the community for 40 years or so. Long-time friend. As he talked and shared some of the characteristics of the friend who had passed away, he kind of shrugged. He recounted that, upon his friend’s death he thought he might want to get in touch with some of the crowd the two of them had hung out with in the past. However, there wasn’t anyone left in the crowd. Everyone else had died.
I asked how a mutual friend was doing, someone who had been fighting illness for some time. What he said kind of threw me for a loop. He said, “We all know that [said person] is just going to go downhill and will then “pass.”. There was a nonchalantness to his voice. There was a matter-of-factness to the look on his face. It was if he was saying… “Oh well, it’s just death.”
Now I think I need to be clear here that this was really not some grand statement of faith, proclaiming that, since Christ has been raised from the dead “all will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well.” No, this was a perspective of one who had been around the block, who had seen a lot of life…and a lot of death. This was a perspective shaped by age. Everyone dies. It’s just death. It happens. What are you going to do? No tears. No emotion. Matter of fact.
While some might view this response, this lack of shrinking before the mystery of death as cold…callous…as I reflect on this conversation, I can’t help but find it somewhat refreshing. While my views might be more grounded in faith language, it is “just death.”. Sure, it can be more tragic–as when the deceased is young, or leaves behind a young family, or dies in a horrible way. Yes, that’s more tragic and will lead to other emotions and tears and anger. But for those who die of natural causes…even it it’s because of personal choices that had been made earlier (the friend who had died had been a smoker), the fact that we die shouldn’t be a surprise.
I hope that, because of my faith, I live as someone who is prepared to die. And perhaps, when I’m as old as the person I met with today, I can accept the simple fact that death is something that lies ahead for all of us. Perhap knowing that will affect how I live my life today.