Life, Death, and Dignity

People are destined to die once.

Hebrews 9:27

People have funny ways of dealing with death. Some laugh at death, or at least make jokes about it. I love Woody Allen’s take: “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Others try to cheat death, although I don’t exactly know how that’s done. It’s not like death is a final exam. Oh wait, it is the final exam. So how do you cheat? Copy off someone else’s exam? What if the person you’re copying dies before you?

Some of those who aren’t into humor or cheating try to confront death by exercising so they’ll live longer. But that seems more like an exercise in futility. The gym I frequent is filled with older people who apparently are trying to make up for 60 or more years of potato chips and inactivity by riding a stationary cycle while reading the newspaper. Is this helping to stave off the grim reaper? Hard to say.

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What Death Taught Me Once Again

A friend I knew as Papa, Bob Moore, left a legacy today: God is big and suffering like Christ is how we show Him to others.

Both of my grandfathers passed away before I was born, so Bob Moore was the closest thing to a local grandfather I ever knew. I don’t think he intended to become my grandfather, but he became it anyways. By the time he joined Christ in heaven, his body was badly beaten from disease and a few falls along the way. I mention this because it’s in his suffering that I learned the most from him.

People teach us in different ways: Bob Moore taught me what it meant to suffer like Christ. I never heard him complain as a disease moved like a freight train through his body. Instead, he embraced Jesus in it all. For all the study I did of God’s suffering servant (Isaiah 52:13–53:12), Papa Moore showed me what it meant to really embrace what that servant, being Jesus, requires of us.

Why 9/12 Matters

9/12 matters because it is Monday morning and I have already forgotten. 

 

It is hard to believe that I can return to the ordinary affairs of the day without even a blink of the eye, already violating the solemn and ubiquitous slogan – We Shall Never Forget. It’s not that I have forgotten 9/11 or everyone that was directly and indirectly impacted in profound and subtle ways. I have already forgotten that today should not be the same.

 

As I watched show after show over the weekend where survivors from the buildings were interviewed, first-responders recounted their feelings, or those touched by the tragedy explained the impact – several compelling threads emerged.

 

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Life is Inherently Tragic

A professor I once had used to say “life is inherently tragic.”  He would go on to explain how death is a part of life, and without one, we cannot have another.  Death gives birth to new life.  Life gives birth to something that will one day die.  

In life, we certainly have our fair share of tragedy.  Both of my own parents died before I was 30.  I have no siblings, and in some ways have had to forge my own way through life.  

We have a friend of ours living with us currently who is a recent widow.  One year ago yesterday her dear husband of over 30 years was taken by the horrible disease of cancer.  She has gone through some real and undiluted pain over the last few years, and is now in a process of recovery.

A child gets killed in an accident, or worse, on purpose.  Death, disease, hunger, and struggle appear all around us.  We nearly become numb to this pain.
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Death & The Neo-Politics of Bad Guys in Post 9/11 America

So, what do we celebrate when a social villain is killed? I got the news on my phone while I was running around Chuck E Cheese (A local video/ mini-amusement restaurant) with my four year old: Osama Bin Laden Dead; Killed by U.S. Forces. My initial reaction was nothing. What could I feel? A man, who had allegedly done all these horrific things to our country, was now killed. What did that mean to me? Not a damn thing. During the Vietnam war era, hundreds of African Americans carried signs that stated: No Vietnamese Ever Called Me A Nigger!” I have to, in context, say the same thing in regards to Bin Laden: What did he do to me? The nine police officers that brutally murdered friends of mine during the late 80’s are still alive—and well I might add. The police officers that shot and killed a bi-polar elderly African American man because he wouldn’t come down off his roof are still alive and were never brought to trial. The people and entities who brought crack cocaine into my neighborhood and addicted millions for decades to come…are still alive. Therefore, what should I celebrate? The death of an entity? That ideology is still very much alive and well. Moreover, part of that ideology was created in the “heat of passion” when the U.S. was making love with members of guerilla Afghans who would in turn, kill the infidel Soviet Union soldiers, so that we could avoid World War III during the late 70’s and early 80’s and still flex our military muscle—using Bin Laden and his merry men as grunts.
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Watching a Father Die Slowly – How can you not weep?

Have you ever felt your heartbreak slowly and completely - when you know it is happening and can’t do anything to stop it?   

 

Today my wife came home from Target around lunch time and told me a story that broke me down.  She had bumped into a friend of ours who gave her the news that a friend of hers who we had met casually at family events was in the middle of a devastating three months.  Her husband had been diagnosed with late stage brain cancer and was given three months to live of which the first thirty days might be bearable.  They have a bunch of kids, boys and girls, and were struggling through the process of preparing for his death.  Creating photos and letters.  Purchasing and engraving meaningful items that each child would have when he passed.  We talked about what to give the boys – what I would give the boys.  We talked about how they were trying to figure out how to make three months or maybe just thirty days somehow matter in the lives of kids 4 to 14 years old.

 
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Homecoming Parties Thrown by God

My husband, Mark, worked in microfinance a couple years ago. Periodically he’d be gone for a couple weeks at a time, traveling to countries on the other side of the world. This seemed like eternity, especially to our children. They love their daddy and his absence was torture to their hearts.

The homecomings were awesome. They’d help clean the house and made sure I was planning a big meal for him. When it was time to head to the airport Anastasia would put on her prettiest outfit and Noah his coolest shirt. They wanted his homecoming to be special.

At the airport we’d wait outside of security, look through the glass doors and randomly check the status of his flight. They'd see Mark walk around the corner and a surge of excitement would rush through their bodies causing involuntary jumping up and down.

Wasting Time and Hoarding Love

I heard a great sermon recently. My sister’s family lives in Atlanta and we all traveled there this year for Thanksgiving. They have been attending a fairly new church called Passion City Church. It’s pretty amazing. Louie Giglio teaches and Chris Tomlin leads the music. Talk about powerful praise and worship. I didn’t want it to end.

Louie’s sermon was titled Fully Alive and it really did a job on my soul. One point really stuck with me and I find myself continually talking about it with others. Louie highlighted Paul’s letter to the Philippians and focused on chapter 1 where Paul shares his struggle to die or not to die. If he were to die he’d instantly be in the arms of Jesus but to remain on earth he’d be able to continue sharing the love of Christ.

I’d always viewed this passage as encouragement for us to be content in all circumstances.

How I Breathed Past the Lie of Disease

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from a dear friend of mine, William Melendez. He is like no other person I have ever met, his battles unique and his writing, hauntingly good. This is an honest account of his literal fight with death. Being that he wrote this article, we can assume he won that fight, but not without walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

Being a person who suffers from mental illness I have dealt with the vicissitudes of aberrant mental and physical states. Nevertheless, after enduring years of mental illness and several gastric diseases, dear reader, I began to succumb to the lie of a sick man’s philosophy: life, with its ups and downs, was always something that happened to me, and of which, I had no control over. I was clinging to a deflated lifeboat, buffeted in the winds of an unruly sea. Two things controlled the course of my raft, sink or swim: the happenstance of life and the constant intervention of God on my behalf. Mostly, I spent my time praying to God that He would get me through whatever was happening to me. My only contribution to my circumstances seemingly consisted of begging.

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What Death Taught Me (Again)

Death recently taught me (again) that words can fail us.

This is a hard fact for me to accept. Here's why: words are my medium. And Metaphors and similes "are my favorite" (That's a quote from my favorite elf. I know, it's not Christmas, and you probably haven't seen Elf in 10 months, but just roll with it.)

Metaphors and similes work for situations like these:

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