We Need to Talk About Death
Posted by Anne Witton on Wednesday, December 7, 2022 Under: Reflections
There seem to be an increasing number of adverts featuring cremation companies that offer no funeral and no fuss (no tears?). There’s more of a focus on partying and going on fun bike rides than grieving (see the adverts here).
Whilst it’s right and healthy to celebrate the life of our loved ones, it’s also right and healthy to grieve the loss and to think about what death means. It seems that, particularly in Western societies, we’re trying to inoculate ourselves against death, rather than facing the reality.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. Mary Elizabeth Frye in the 1930's wrote the poem 'Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep’ which ends with the lines:
“Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.”
Christians are sometimes accused of trying to soothe themselves with an illusion, but what if it’s the other way round? What if ignoring death or trying to airbrush it out is a massive mistake? What if thinking and talking about death is essential? If we don’t understand death, then we won’t understand life. If nothing happens after we die, we will live in one way, but if death is not the end, that makes a radical difference to everything we do and value now.
A healthy focus on death doesn’t have to be depressing. Just like a seed has to die for a plant to emerge (John 12: 24), just as Jesus died so that death could be beaten and the resurrection could happen (Romans 6: 8 – 9), just as his followers have to die to their selfish way of living to enjoy his much more fulfilled way of living (Luke 9: 23), death is the gateway to life.
I came across the concept of ‘Death Cafés’ recently. The idea of these secular gatherings is ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives'. But what if our lives aren’t finite? What if there’s life after death? That makes talking about it even more important.
For Christians like me, death is the doorway to eternal life with the one we love and follow. We have an amazing promise that on the other side of death “…God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21: 3b-4). I think that’s worth talking about.
For more on death, you might like my article Have You Ever Wondered What Happens When You Die?
In : Reflections