Saturday, January 23, 2010
Having experienced several instances of grief in my life, it has become a familiar experience, though never a welcome guest.
This month, I have lost two significant women whose etchings upon my soul are immeasurable.
After losing a close friend to a severe asthma attack at the tender age of 11, I learned very early on that death would be a part of life.
I am not uncomfortable discussing it, referencing it, or even joking about it.
I do not become visibly anxious and agitated when the subject is broached.
I do not dismiss it with complaints about the conversation having turned "too morbid."
The more I think about death, the more I feel convinced that one of the reason why it causes us such pain, discomfort and anxiety is because we have no control over it.
Because of technological advancements and human discoveries, we are able to postpone it, delay it, straddle its boundaries, and even invite it, if we wish.
But ultimately, it remains immune to our manipulations.
We will die, the people we love will die, and we are powerless to prevent it.
In the face of such sobering realities, it's no wonder that we feel so heavy-hearted when death brushes against us.
Having grown up in the Christian tradition, I know very well that God is sovereign over all facets of life, even death.
I'm well aware that the Bible says "we do not mourn as those who have no hope."
But the fact remains, we do mourn.
There is no escaping that disturbing fact.
The last thing I ever wish to sound like is a cliched idealist.
But I do believe there are things we can control that may offer comfort in the face of death's unavoidable encroachment.
We can choose to be kind, empathetic, and patient with one another.
We can resolve conflicts with humble, contrite communication.
We can make concerted efforts to ensure that those we love are fully aware of our concern and compassion for them.
When I was sixteen, I went to Pittsburgh for a short-term mission trip, fixing up houses for low-income families with The Pittsburgh Project.
Our leader and teacher, Saleem Ghubril, instructed us, "Think about what you want people to say about you at your funeral."
I still think about that.