in the shadow of Death

I’m thinking a lot about death and dying this week.  The local high school ran a program inviting their students to think about the consequences of an untimely death due to distracted driving, among other things.  The students were brought face to face with wrecked cars, police and fire first responders, the LifeStar helicopter and team, lawyers speaking of the aftermath, funeral home staff, and clergy. For the first time, maybe ever, for some of them, they talked about death of people close to them, or of their own.  They breached (or avoided) the subject with the extraordinary skill that only a teenager can.

The clergy at the event spoke of what a funeral might look like, and how we put it together. We talked about the ripples of grief in its many forms and about supporting someone who grieves. We made reference to how people try and make sense of death and dying in so many ways… using quip platitudes that do nothing like “God needed another angel,” or “time heals all wounds,” or “everything happens for a reason,” …when perhaps underneath those pithy words are deeper questions like, “I don’t understand and I don’t know what to say,” or “Why me?” or even “why not me?!”  We offered the sincere hope that each student live fully and intentionally, and that we’d never have to do their funerals too young.  Because that aches for everyone involved, not the least of which the family.

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After leaving the 600 or so high school students, we went back to the church to get ready for the celebration of the Last Supper and the telling of the story of what comes thereafter, through scripture, movement, music, and dance.  The cross, set up in the center of the labyrinth, cast a shadow across the lines, almost foreshadowing the darkness of the service to follow.  

Death is inevitable for us all.  We’re all going back to the dust from which we came in one way or another.   We will breathe our last, expelling our spirit and moving out of the body which has housed us for years.  Even God died, in Jesus Christ.  As I sit, in the afternoon of Good Friday, the death feels so very real.  The sound of the drum mimicking the nails or the last breath crying, “it is finished.”  The finality of it all. (and the little voice of hope whispers, “Is it?”)

It’s not pretty.  We don’t talk about it.  But we do need to sit in it for a time.  We are a broken world, and a broken people.  (and the little voice of hope whispers, “broken, yet beloved…”)

So as we move into this time of vigil and darkness and of keeping watch for what might come these next few days, be blessed in the knowledge of a God who wanted to know humanity so fully that God became human, and died. (and, too the little voice of hope, whispering…)

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