How to deal with death

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Tombstone

Dealing with death is emotionally difficult. Even when someone has suffered for years and is ready to “go home,” it’s still hard to say goodbye. Death is sobering. Separation is painful.

The reality of our mortality isn’t anything we should fear, but we must face it. We all have an expiration date. Not one of us owns our next breath.

Recently, two men I know and love have gone to be with Jesus. Within just the past couple of years, I’ve lost two uncles and my stepdad. The generation before me is getting much smaller than it used to be. Attending funerals is a far more frequent experience for me than I ever imagined.

Needless to say, this has me thinking a bit more about my own death. Relax, I have no premonition of my impending departure, but I do live with a greater awareness of something Job once said, “My days are swifter than a runner . . .” (Job 9:25). In fact, it seems my days are moving at an incredible pace. (Is it really almost August? Did I actually see a Christmas display at Macy’s?)

My wife and I just celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary, and we talked about the fact that it’s highly unlikely that we will share another thirty-eight years together on planet earth. Sad but true.

Moses wrote, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). In other words, “God, help us to realize that life is short and precious so that we can use what we have wisely.”

So here are some wise lessons I’m learning about dealing with death:

  • Don’t waste the gift of time. We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day. What you do with yours, however, is up to you. Are you living on purpose? Do you see each minute as a gift from God? What will you do today to make a difference in your world? This doesn’t mean we have to work 24/7 or run around in anxious busyness. Chill. Take a break when needed. It’s okay. But don’t let hours become days and days become weeks where you waste the gifts you have from God—especially the gift of time.
  • Keep short accounts. By that, I mean don’t let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26). Life’s too short to go to bed mad. People are too precious to cut them out of your life in frustration and wrath. Here’s a little insight: we all fail. Sooner or later the people you love will hurt you (and you will hurt them). Love and forgive anyhow. Don’t let the last thing you ever say to someone be words that cut and wound. As far as it depends on you, let the last thing you say to someone be a blessing.
  • Live with honor; die with honor. Basically, this means you do everything possible to finish well. You make it your goal to live honorably for Jesus every day so when the time comes for your departure, you can say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Like I said, we all fail along the way. No one dies with a perfect record; nobody bats 1,000 (not even the Apostle Paul). But it is a worthy pursuit to live well so that you can die well.

With modern medicine and a relatively healthy lifestyle, I might make it to hundred. More than likely, however, I’m already well past the halfway mark, and it’s okay. The reality of my mortality is motivating to me. The truth that my days are numbered has always been true. Nowadays, I’m just more aware that I am one day closer to eternity, and that’s a good thing. It inspires me to live in such a way that makes every moment count.

Honestly, death can be a “happy thought” for me because I’m ready. Ready to go home when He calls. Ready to be reunited with my family and friends who have gone on before me. Ready for an eternity with Jesus!

How about you?

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8 Responses to How to deal with death

  1. Even though you know the loved one you have “lost” is in a far better place, pain free, in the presence of the Lord and that you will see them again someday there is deep pain that only time and Jesus can heal. You just don’t “get over it”. So be patient with those remaining, especially if they have lost a spouse, be gentle, supportive and encouraging. Until you’ve been there, you have know idea the enormity of that loss. They have not “walked this way before” either. Thanks for your words of encouragement.

  2. Kurt,

    How ironic that I would read this after going out to the “family” cemetery last week with my 82 year old mother. Since Mom fell on the job last year breaking her hip and hitting her head, mortality has literally been breathing out her nostrils and into mine.

    While I applaud her foresight in wanting to get these weighty matters decided upon and paid for before she goes, there is just something way-too sobering about a graveyard. A graveyard where I can read my stillborn baby sister’s name, my dad’s, my grandmother’s.

    As it all unfolded around me, my tiny little mother curled over and rested on her cane looking at the baby’s grave. “I never even got to see her,” she said, her aging blue eyes rheumy with tears…the first ones I’d ever seen her shed over the baby she never EVER talked about.

    Say what, Jesus??? THIS is how things end???? Are you flipping kidding me, Father? I so wanted to rail and wail and go postal singing that old song from the 60’s, “Is this all there is”?

    Of course I know the truth. The REAL truth. That THIS is NOT all there is. This life here on earth is just the appetizer….the thing we cut our teeth on to see if we’ve got the incisors for the real-deal-meal.

    By God’s grace—and only by his epic grace—we do.

    But, dang, life’s a hard “chew” sometimes. Full of buckshot, gristle and nasty gnarly stuff that only the Holy Spirit can floss out of us. Thank God for that. And for reminders like yours.

    • Love your heart and honesty, Ronna. Love you! (I’m pretty sure you’ve got another book in you.)

    • Thank you, Michele. Sometimes it amazes me how you write something from your heart, and then it seems like God “tests” you to see if you will practice what you preach. My wife and I just got news this morning that a niece was in an auto accident last night and passed away. She left behind a wonderful husband and two little boys. We are weeping, but holding on to Him.
      You are loved,
      Kurt

  3. One of those uncles was my Grandpa. It felt like his passing was do painfully drawn out and lonely. Thank you for mentioning him and making me smile. My 6 year old recently told me “fair’s not life”.
    So true Katie so true.

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