Thursday, November 02, 2006

The forbidden word: death

Want to make everyone around you uncomfortable? Say the word "death" and mission accomplished! I've talked to many different people from different walks of life from different age groups and the one thing that we all have in common is that we don't like talking about death. This discomfort stretches across lines of race and religion. Of wealth and poverty. It makes no difference where we come from or what experiences we have: we're uncomfortable with death.

I can say that pretty confidently because I for one can admit that death makes me uncomfortable. I don't like to talk about it. I don't like to hear about it. It's far easier to just ignore it than it is to face it. And so my vocabulary avoids it. My actions ignore it. I talk about healing and life and leave the talk of death to doctors and funeral directors.

Even during my illness I didn't want to talk or think about death and being in a hospital made that kind of difficult to avoid, yet avoid it I did. When a patient down the hall from me passed away, I hid in my room until I was 100% certain that there were no upset family members still in the hallway. When I would hear multiple "code blues" over the speaker system, I would say a quick prayer and turn up the television. I did everything possible to avoid the topic in a place where the subject can't be denied. And I know I'm not the only one to ever do this.

Actually when I really think about it, being uncomfortable with death makes sense if you believe in the God of the Bible. But it sure doesn't make sense if you don't. I know that sounds opposite to what we are taught, but hear me out for a second.

If we are nothing more than a by product of a big bang and there is nothing more than nature that is behind our existence, wouldn't death be the most natural thing in the world? In an ever evolving world, old life dies and new evolved life springs forth. It's the circle of life. It's the chain of nature. Yet if that was the case, wouldn't we have evolved on some sort of an emotional level to not only accept death, but deal with it as a regular occurrence in life? The same way we deal with our human limitations? Really if we had evolved free from any sort of a god and any kind of concept like eternity, death would make sense. It wouldn't paralyse. It wouldn't destroy. It would be a natural part of our existence.

But it's not and that makes my faith the most natural thing in the world. Why? Because the way I read it in Genesis, we as humans were not designed to die. We were created to live forever in the Garden of Eden. We were given access to eternal life, but we messed it up and through our sin introduced all kinds of nasty things into our world. So instead of leaving us to live forever in a fallen state, God did us a favour and evicted us from the garden so that we didn't have a choice in the matter.

Life outside of Eden meant that where once we were created to be alive for all eternity, we transitioned into fragile and mortal beings. It also meant that in order to have eternal life, God would have to provide another way in Jesus. We were made to live forever, we messed it up, and thus our struggle with accepting death makes sense.

And while the Christian faith explains our problem dealing with death, it also makes death out to be no less than a glorious transition. I tend to think of it now in the same way as being put under anaesthetic for surgery: you feel yourself floating then blank out. But in death instead of awaking in a recovery room somewhere in pain, you wake up in the most glorious place that could ever be wondering why you were so nervous about the journey.

Yes death is uncomfortable to talk about at times and yes, it doesn't always make sense. That's just one more consequence of the fall, but thank God it's not a permanent one!

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