Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Good Death

Death is a strange and morbid topic. At least, many consider it to be so. Myself, I think about dying almost every day. It comes with my vocation. I know many people, and because of this, I go to many funerals. Everyone dies. You will die. I am going to die. I think about this every time I speak at a funeral or simply attend the funeral of an acquaintance or a loved one.

I have never been to a funeral where the actual death of the person is not discussed. It would be absurd if it weren't. Sometimes, it is quietly discussed when the means of death is dishonorable. Yet, hushed or open, the means of death is discussed. It does not matter if it is suicide or cancer, accident or old age, sudden or foreseen. The manner of death is always discussed. Quite often, this is followed by a judgment on whether or not this is a good way to go, and personal preferences on the method of death are discussed. The general consensus seems to be that most people want to die suddenly with as little foresight as possible. Dropping dead instantly of a heart attack or dying in one's sleep is the means of choice.

I do not want to go out like that, though I confess I have no choice in the matter. I hope that I have a window of time that I might see the approach of the inevitable. I would like, if at all possible, a time of reflection before I die. After all, I am spending every day of my life preparing for my demise. Dying will be a big day for me. I do not look at death as a dread, though I admit I do not look forward to the pain involved, I do not dread the actual being dead part.

You may find me hopelessly morbid, but I do daydream about dying from time to time. There are several constants in my daydream. My wife is always there, because I hope that she will outlive me. This is very important to me because when I die, I want to die faithful to her. I want her to be there without regret, and I want the vows that bound us so many years before to be more meaningful and beautiful on that day than on the day we made them. I want for her to feel and know that she has been loved. I want her to know that each day I had with her has been to me the highest of all of my privileges here in this life.

My children are also there. Every day, I pray that my heavenly Father will make me a good father to my children, that they will know that I love them, and that they will feel treasured by me. I want them to know that being their father has been the highest privilege I have had in this life.

This may cause the reader a bit of confusion since I just wrote that I want my wife to know that being her husband has been my greatest privilege. Reflection upon death and life and love has led me to realize many things that confuse others but do not bother me in the slightest. I believe in a Triune God who is One Being in Three Persons. I adore each person of the Trinity as the only True God. It is no great stretch for me to suppose then that I have more than one greatest privilege in life. I love more than one person "the most". I cannot divide the substance of the love I have for my wife and my children and my friends, it is the same and yet different. Perhaps I cannot explain this to anyone else in a way that will satisfy, but in my heart I know the truth of it.

This brings me to another constant: my friends. I have some friends that I have known and loved for most of my life. May they all outlive me and exceed me! In my dreams, they are there as well. They are there in my deathly daydream because they will know that I have loved them and they have loved me for it. They will be there because they will know that I have counted their friendship as the highest privilege in my life here.

My daydream ends with me surrounded by those who I have loved so much that they cannot deny that they have been loved by me. This is what it means for me to live each day as if it would be my last. If I could only die this way, then I could fly to my Savior unashamed. He is the one who bound me to all of these by the cords of love, and this is the only and greatest burden that He ever put on me as his servant. He has commanded me to love, and he is teaching me to do it. I hope that I will be found faithful until that day comes, and I pray that I will live each day with dying in mind so that I might live well until I do.

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