How Should A Christian Respond To Death?
Whew! Did that title grab your attention or what! I’ve been thinking about this subject for several days. What started it? My friend Scott had this post the other day about someone who attends his church passing away—the dude was only 33 years old—I haven’t been able to shake this from my mind.
I have had my experiences with people who are close to me dying. My mother passed away in November of 1982, my grandfather died in 1984—the same day the space shuttle blew up—I had four guys who were supposed to graduate high school with me die during our senior year—my grandmother passed away about 10 or 11 years ago…
I have learned to live with this fact—people die! Everyone of us will one day step into eternity…and there is nothing that can really be done about it.
The thing that I am wanting to address though is NOT how to deal with people dying…but how to deal with the people who were close to the person (their spouse, children, parents) and are still here on planet earth.
For some strange reason Christians feel that in a time of tragedy that they need to say something profound—quote a Scripture—recite a poem—to calm the person down. I am not saying that this is not effective…but…
Take a journey with me—I was 11 years old & I had to stand beside my mothers casket while people filed by me and said stupid things! Now before you try and say, “Perry—they meant well,” I would like to say that I am sure they did—but it did not change the fact that, to the mind of an 11 year old, that I wished they would have simply given me a hug and moved on.
For example—I remember thinking, “If one more person tells me that she is in a better place then I am going to kick them in the groin!” (Just being honest—those were my thoughts!) Here’s the deal—I KNEW she was in a better place—I didn’t need to be told that 117 times by various people who felt like they HAD to say something profound. All I really wanted (and needed) were people to just be around so that I didn’t feel alone.
And the food—my gosh—why is it that in the south we take a covered dish to every tragedy we attend? I know people need to eat—and the hospitality was very well appreciated…but…wow!
I remember after my mothers funeral there were so many people at the house—and we were all eating of course…and then after about an hour of hearing, “she’s in a better place,” and, “she’s not in any more pain,” everyone left & it was just me and my dad…
I have never felt more lonely in my life…he was grieving…I was grieving…and no one was there. Don’t get me wrong—there were plenty of people around for a while—but then people began to stop calling and stop coming by—just when we needed them the most. (Ask anyone who has lost a loved one—they will tell you the same.)
I said all of that to say this—the best thing I believe we can do for one another when someone passes away is just be there for them. We don’t have to say anything—let me say this again—the person still here KNOWS that they are in a better place!!! Take it from someone who has been down that road—just be there.
I have had so many people tell me, “I don’t know what to do or say when someone passes away.” Once again—you don’t have to DO or SAY anything—just being there is enough. And don’t just be there for a day or two—go by to see them the next week…and the next…call them and take them out for lunch or dinner—AND TALK ABOUT LIFE!
WOW—I remember so many people asking me for weeks and months afterwards was I doing ok…now once again this is my story—but I remember thinking, “Why won’t people let me move on? Why do they insist that I keep reliving this experience?” I wanted people to talk to me about football…about school…about girls (they were becoming strangely attractive at that point in my life!)
One of the coolest things about the ministry of the local church is that we are surrounded by a group of people with whom we can share life with—both the good AND the bad experiences. I didn’t write this post to vent frustration…I merely wanted to help people who have a hard time being around someone who has just lost someone close to them because they feel like they are not trained to do or say something profound.
Take it from someone who has been there—there is NOTHING you can do or say to take the pain away—NOTHING; however, just being there means more to the person who is grieving than you will ever know.