Have you ever had someone close to you die? Have you ever had to care for a dying relative or friend? Perhaps you have never been that close to death, but chances are you have encountered death or dying on some personal level such as attending a funeral.
As a pastor I have the privilege of being involved with people’s lives from cradle to grave. I have experienced joy with new parents as I’ve baptised their babies and the sorrow of being with people who are sick and dying. I am often offering comfort and prayers to those grieving over the loss of someone they loved. Yet, as frequently as I have been around death and dying, it doesn’t get any easier. In fact, death sucks. Let’s be honest about it: dying isn’t beautiful. There is no dignity in dying. It is ugly and vile. It isn’t beautiful; it’s a mess.
The other day I was watching the movie with Philip Seymour Hoffman (Jon) and Laura Linney (Wendy) called “The Savages”. The story involves a brother and sister struggling to care for their estranged dying father. While trying to come to a decision about which nursing home they should place their father in they begin to fight in the parking lot.
Here is the climax of that scene:
Wendy: I thought if we could just get him in there-
Jon: Why are you wasting our time on fantasies?
Wendy: I happen to think that it’s nicer here.
Jon: You are the guilty demographic. The landscaping, the neighborhoods of care-They’re not for the residents, they’re for the relatives…people like you and me who don’t want to admit to what’s really going on here.
Wendy: Which is what, Jon?
Jon: People are dying, Wendy!
Jon: Right inside that beautiful building right now, it’s a f***g horror show! And all this wellness propaganda and the landscaping, it’s just there to obscrue the miserable fact that people die! And death is gaseous and gruesome..and it’s filled with s***and p*** and rotten stink!
Finally a movie that tells the truth and doesn’t attempt to sanititize death. Hoffman’s character responded the way we should see death – with anger!
There seems to be a trend in Hollywood these days of movies willing to honestly tackle the pain, misery and real loss of dying. Movies such as Away from Her , Two Weeks , and Evening tell stories of the real pain and the real loss that comes with sickness and death.
In Rick McKinley’s book, This Beautiful Mess, Rick addresses death by recalling a story about his old friend Scott:
“Recently, my friend Scott was killed. I went to the graveside with his family to lead the memorial. The whole time there in the graveyard we felt the sting of death. The awful mess of grief and rage and unfairness was right there under our feet. I hated it.”
Death isn’t the way it was suppossed to be. It isn’t natural. We weren’t created to die. It was only after sin entered God’s perfect creation through our disobedience, that death began.
Certainly death is something we all will have to confront, but we shouldn’t like it. The good news is that we aren’t left in despair. Death doesn’t have the final say. There is hope. Hoffman’s character, who although is rightly angry over death, seems to have no hope beyond death. Yet as followers of Christ, we do have hope. It is hope found in the ressurection.
The resurrection is Jesus’ victory over death. Death no longer has the final say.
McKinley’s concludes his earlier comment with these thoughts…,
“But no one dies in the kingdom of God. It is in the kingdom of Satan, our enemy, where death reigns. A pastor friend of mine told me that as he was preparing for a funeral once, he decided to go through the Gospels to see how Jesus dealt with funerals. What he discovered was that Jesus did not care for them much. Every one He went to He raised the person from the dead. Jesus doesn’t do funerals, not even his own.”
Let death make you angry, but in your anger find hope.