Coping with Death

In January it seems we attend more funerals and send more sympathy cards than usual. Whether death comes as a relief after a long illness or as an unexpected shock, dealing with it is difficult. Our faith tells us that death is only the door to new, eternal life where we will be with God and our loved ones forever. By dying, Jesus gave death meaning. It is the way to the complete and permanent experience of God’s love—a mystery of triumph! It is our greatest adventure. Nevertheless, saying good-bye on earth and missing our family member or friend are painful experiences. The closer we are to the departed person, the deeper the hurt and the longer the grieving.

I’ve collected a few reflections on death that you might find helpful. They might ease your own sorrow at the death of a loved one, or you might enclose one or the other in a sympathy card.

  1. Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. (Canon Henry Scott Holland)

2. Life Is Eternal

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, “There! she’s gone.”

Gone where? Gone from my sight; that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her; and just at the moment when someone at my side says,“There! she’s gone,” there are other eyes watching her coming,and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “There she comes!”

3. We remember, Lord, the slenderness of the thread which separates life from death, and the suddenness with which it can be broken. Help us also to remember that on both sides of that division we are surrounded by your love. Persuade our hearts that when our dear ones die neither we nor they are parted from you. In you may we find our peace and in you be united with them in the glorious body of Christ, who has burst the bonds of death and is alive for evermore, our savior and theirs for ever and ever. Amen. (Dick Williams)

What helps you deal with the mystery of death?

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