Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Death has no dignity.

Heather invited Rick and me (and Christopher - to play with the grandkids) over for supper tonight, but she had ulterior motives. She wanted her dad to set up the new (used) computer that she got from a friend.

So, while Rick and Steve were engrossed in computer stuff, Heather and I sat down to watch "House", a tv show about an arrogant but brilliant doctor. The patient was dying, and after several failed diagnoses, decided that she would rather go ahead and die than to submit to another treatment that might, or might not, work.

House went into a tirade: "You want to die with dignity?" he asked. "There is no dignity in death. There is dignity in living, but not in dying."

I have to agree. I watched my mom die. I was there when my father-in-law was in his last few days of life. I saw my aunt, lying in a coma, unable to communicate as her life slipped away.

It is not dignified when a person is reduced to helplessness. There is absolutely nothing to do. Palliative care workers are angels of mercy. They administer pain killers, do mouth care, speak soothing words. But the grim reality is that the person is dying, will die, and there really is nothing to do, but wait.

Death is not supposed to be dignified. It wasn't supposed to BE. It is only because of the fall of man that sin entered the world, and the wages of sin is death.

People tend to want to comfort themselves by denying the reality of death:

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

However, the truth is, people die. Living things die. The only One who never dies is God; and He sent His Son to die in our place.

Yes, the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Christians die, but they are resurrected to eternal life. We have hope - not that we become part of nature, but that we will live forever as sentient beings, serving the Living God.

The Bible declares, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." Passage after passage teaches us that our days are numbered, but that they are numbered by GOD, who loves us so much that He provided a way for us to live forever. 1 Corinthians 15:54, 55 "When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O, death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"

There is no dignity in dying, but we have this precious hope. We know that our Lord, who tasted death for us, is able to raise us up and to present us before His father as spotless, unblemished saints.

My Aunt Ruth requested that this poem be printed on her funeral brochure:

Not dead, Oh, no, but borne beyond the shadows,
Into the full clear light.
Forever done with mist and cloud and tempest,
Where all is calm and bright.

Not even sleeping; called to glad awakening
In Heaven's endless day.

Not still and moveless,
Stepped from earth's rough places,
To walk the King's Highway.

Not silent, just passed out of earthly hearing,
to sing Heaven's sweet new song.

Not lonely, dearly loved and dearly loving,
Amid the white-robed throng.

No, not forgotten, keeping fond remembrance, of dear ones left awhile,
and looking for the glad reunion, with hand-clasp and a smile.

Oh, no, not dead, but past all fear of dying,
and with all suffering o'er,
Say not that I am dead when Jesus calls me
To life forever more.

Our hope is in Heaven, because Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes unto the Father but by Jesus, our Saviour and Lord.

Death may have no dignity, but it also has no sting for those who are in Christ Jesus.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

What is truly sad is the physician's attitude to grasp hold of this life, when this thing we call "life" is not life at all. Praise God for the hope we have!