My Very Personal Thoughts On Dying

A friend asked me today if I was worried about my mom going back to work as a county social worker in NY amid Covid19. The question took me a bit off guard – not because I had to think about if as I was worried or not, but because I wanted to think about how to answer the question. The simple answer is “No, I’m not worried.” But that seems heartless, as if I don’t care if my mom lives or dies. Here’s my thoughts.

When my mom dies, I’ll be heartbroken. Not if she dies. When. She will die; I will be grief struck. That much is inevitable, unless my hard living ways catch up to me first; then she’ll be heartbroken and grief struck. But someone’s dying, someone’s going to be sad. Just a matter of who and when. To live is to die.

If she catches Covid19 and dies sooner, before she reaches her 70th birthday, she will miss out on a lot of good living, a lot of joyful events, some fun (more precious than gold for my mom). Mud pies. When she dies, as a daughter of the King of Joy, she’ll enter his courts and the “good living” on earth will seem so bland and mundane. The continual stream of heavenly joys will make the earthly pleasures of graduation parties, weddings, baseball games, and sunsets on her deck looking over the lake seem dreary by comparison. A vacation by the seashore.

If she catches covid-19 and dies sooner, before she reaches her 70th birthday, she will also be missing out on a lot of pain. Not just physical pain, but grief, heart ache. That’s the other part of life in this sin-broken world. My dad used to say that getting old isn’t for sissies. I agree. Addendum: Life isn’t for sissies. Every day requires fighting – fighting off discouragement, fighting temptation, fighting for holiness, justice, joy; fighting to get out of bed, to push on through the pain in the knees, the shortness of breath, the loneliness. Only in Christ’s presence is the fighting over and only then do we enter our perfect Sabbath Rest.

Ok, but what if I catch the ‘rona and die (or crash while driving and trying to light my pipe at the same time)? Everything I said about my mom would hold true for me too – losing some good things, gaining better things; bypassing pain and struggle, entering eternal rest. So with Paul, I’ll say “To Live is Christ, to Die is Gain.”

On the other hand, I’ve got substantial responsibilities and quite a few people counting on me. I worry more about this than I do about actually dying. But this too is a litmus test for my faith. Do I believe Christ is sufficient? Yes I do. Do I think he will care for my family (which is also his family, more eternally his family – they were his before they were mine)? Yes I do. Will his people, the church, be his instrument of care? Yes they will. Do I think my kids and wife would be sad? Depends on the day I guess, but we’ll go with yes, they will. But God will use that grief, the struggle, and all that goes with losing your dad for their ultimate, eternal good.

None of this makes me reckless with my life. I wear a mask. I wear a seat belt too. I have life insurance and auto insurance too. But I hold my life loosely…even the lives of those around me. Holding them too tightly doesn’t help; I do not have the power of life and death. Our days and hours are in HIS hands.

I’m not reckless, but I am [somewhat] carefree. I go to work and church, stores and baseball games. And I sometimes drive over the speed limit and even, every once and while, look at my phone to change from Metallica to the Misfits on Spotify. And, I want my kids to go to school and hang with friends (too old to say ‘play’ with friends).

What if I give it to someone I care about and they die? That will be a bitter pill, no doubt. But no harder than if I am at fault for a car accident that proves fatal. I check twice when backing out of my driveway to avoid kids on their bike; I wear a mask and hand sanitize often too. So I will take reasonable care, but I will not cower in fear of Covid-19 any more than I’ll cower in fear of squashing a pedestrian on Jordan Ave.

“To the Christian, death is the exchanging of a tent for a building.” – Billy Graham