Dealing with death

On Friday 1st July I lost my mother to cancer. For the past few years I’d been aware of my mother’s age and I’ve sometimes played over in my mind what it would be like to be at her funeral. The scenario never went well in my imagination, because my mother made no claim to being a Christian, and I always pictured some travesty of a sermon being uttered about my mother being at rest, etc. The way it played out in reality was very different.

A few days before she died, I mustered up enough courage to talk to her about the Lord. It’s always a hard thing to talk to your elders about salvation, because the gospel is a confrontational thing and generally it’s wrong to get confrontational with your parents. I was driving home the 25 miles from Belvoir Park hospital, playing over in my mind what I could possibly say to my mother, and just when I was almost home, I swung the car around and headed straight back to her, determined to get this done and avoid living with the terrible regret of keeping my mouth shut. I got a good response from her; no excuses, just a promise to put things right with God. It’s not an absolute guarantee, but I can live with that.

Death hits people in different ways. Some get angry at God, others depressed. I’m at peace with what has happened, and it’s because of the knowledge I’ve gained from the Bible. I understand that eternity matters far more than our short lives; that this life is a training ground for the life to come. I also understand that the pain and suffering we endure are part and parcel of living in a fallen world; whether you believe the Adam and Eve account to be factual or allegorical, the idea is that something dreadful happened a long time ago – some kind of fall – that put the world into the state it’s been in throughout recorded history; it’s too shortsighted to throw this back in God’s face and blame him for the death of a loved one. Being a Christian really helps you at a time like this.

Mum has always been a mystery to me. She took me to church now and then when I was a kid, but had no definite commitment to Christianity. If I could sum her up in one words, that word would be “selfless.” Over the past few years, I became acutely aware of how much she lived her life for me. And that’s not the moral quality of the damned, is it? To a lesser extent, I learned a little of this selfless devotion, when someone special drifted into my life for a couple of years – someone I just decided one day to start praying for on a daily basis, and never stopped. It’s a wonderful thing when your happiness depends on someone else’s happiness.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

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