Death is one of the vagaries of life that most people feel uncomfortable discussing. It’s one thing that everybody finds hard to come to terms with when it happens and impossible to speculate or predict. The potency of death is grim to an extent that it can change the course of people’s lives positively or negatively. The underlying fact about this phenomenon is that it is inevitable.
One would ask; How did this enigmatic phenomenon come about? According to the Bible, death came about as a result of the disobedience of the first humans created by God, i.e. Adam and Eve when they ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:19).
This enigma of death becomes complicated when the Bible says after death every man shall be judged based how they lived their lives on earth (Hebrews 9:27) after which there is an afterlife which would be determined based on how one lived his/her life on earth. Since nobody ever returned from the dead and confirmed whether this assertion is true or not, there has been a lot of debate among the human race about its validity. Based on the belief that there is an afterlife after death and for most Christians this life is a life better than the earthly one (Heaven), they term the earthly life as a transition and a preparation towards the heavenly life. If our earthly life is just a transition and there is a better and eternal life than this, why do we find it hard to embrace death and mourn grievously when a loved one departs?
One would say it’s because of how uncertain and unassuming death strikes. This is true to a large extent but Jesus’s encounter with death says otherwise. Jesus’s main purpose on earth was to come and die for the remission of sins of mankind and he even made it known to his disciples and promised he’d resurrect after three days. Interestingly, Jesus who knew the certainty of his death and how it was going to pan out found it difficult to come to terms with it a day before he was betrayed. Mathew 26:38-39. His mother and other loved ones who knew he’d live again after three days also grieved when he was crucified.
Based on this, I’ve come to the realization that it is just human to grieve the demise of a loved one. We grieve because of the emotional attachment we have with the person.
In Ghana, when people die, there are several taglines written on their obituaries. You’d see tag lines such as Gone Too Soon, Why So Soon, What A Shock, Call To Glory, A life Well Lived, Home Call etc. Taglines such as Gone Too Soon, and What a Shock are mostly used for people who die young or in their prime and tag lines such as Call To Glory and Home Call are used for those who die in their old age. This brings out another debate about the ideal age a person is expected to die. There is a Ghanaian adage that says “It is an abomination for a parent to bury the child” which basically suggests that a parent is expected to live longer than their child(usually in their old age) . Abraham lived 175 years and the Bible said he died “in a good old age, an old man, and full of years” (Genesis 25:8).The Psalmist said in Psalm 90:10 “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away”. The psalmist is believed to have been reflecting on life and came to the conclusion that, the years of our life are seventy and if by strength, eighty but life beyond this is rife with suffering and sorrow. That is why usually when people die in their old age, they are believed to have lived life to the fullest thus people grieve less at their funeral as compared to when people die young.
Some rhetorical questions Christians usually ask God when a loved one dies unexpectedly (Usually in their prime) is Why me? Why couldn’t God avert this? We’re all waiting impatiently to find answers to these hard questions when we meet God one day. Interestingly, even Jesus wasn’t spared death and he also asked a question of this nature on the cross when he said “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mathew 27:46). He didn’t get an answer so he had to give up the Ghost. I’ve come to understand that God is under no obligation to explain to us the circumstances surrounding the death of a loved one.
Even though God is under no obligation to explain the cause of death of some people, I wish there was an exception to this. In 2015, I watched with a heavy heart as death laid its icy hands on some good friends of mine whom from all indications had bright prospects and could have been game changers if they were alive. I consoled myself with the excuse that, God knows best and their soul is perfectly resting peacefully with Him. Just when I thought 2015 had left with its misfortune of taking away my friends, 2016 came with a much bigger dimension when it comes to death and doesn’t seem to take a bow anytime soon. I’ve watched with acrimony as death once again laid its icy hands on the parents of some good friends of mine. If it wasn’t their parents that died, it was someone who played an integral part in their wellbeing that died. My mom once told me that when you hear your neighbor’s house is on fire, you also start putting your house in order because it is likely the fire might spread to your house. When things like this happen, I begin to ask myself questions such as; Is my turn also coming? How would it happen? Can I survive it? etc. Unfortunately, some friends of mine can’t recover from the loss of their parents because a vacuum has been created. They have nobody to play the caretaking roles their parents played hence their condition is deteriorating daily as I watch helplessly. It then dawned on me that out of the numerous reasons why the death of a loved one is painful, the grimmest of all is when the deceased played an integral role in your life and there’s no one to take up that role.
Jesus even knew this, and when he realized His disciples were sad because He was going back to His heavenly father, he said: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter that may abide with you forever” (John 14:16).
If you are in the category of people who lost their parents over the years, I pray God gives you a comforter that’d fill the vacuum left behind by your parents.