Reflections on Death


Although loss is loss death can raise different issues depending upon the circumstances.

Death in old Age

Although we may be devastated to lose someone who has been a permanent fixture in our lives it does not generally come as a shock and we do not tend to demand of God what he thinks he is playing at! We have a sense of a good lifespan and a life well lived (or not!) and can accept that there is often much to celebrate as well as to mourn. Our experience of life tells us that we have to accept the death of someone very old. We do not feel robbed or cheated even if we feel sad. Funerals of very aged people can be a tremendous opportunity for thanksgiving and reconciliation and for learning something important about the values and lives of previous generations.

If this is you read Philippians 1:3 "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you" and Ecclesiastes 3:1-22 "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;...".

After a long illness

Losing someone is never good although sometimes when a long illness has robbed the deceased of any dignity or quality of life or when pain is unbearable it can come as a relief. There is no shame in admitting this. Death can actually be the healing that we pray for although it may not be what we had had in mind when we prayed. But if we love the person what we want for them is the removal of pain, disease and unhappiness and sometimes death and going to God is the only way that can happen. The difficulty is that often, bound up with the love we have for someone, is the terror that we also have, of losing them and that concern for ourselves clouds our judgement about what is really the best and most merciful outcome.

If this is you read Revelation 21:4 "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.".

Sudden death

It is impossible to make sense of a sudden death. A coroner may give a physical reason why the person died but that often simply does not stand up against the eternal question "Why?". You may be struck by the unfairness of a potential unfulfilled and years stolen from you. Once the initial shock is over and the funeral arranged there can be towering rage at God for letting it happen, at the deceased for going off and leaving you and at anyone happy who reminds you what you have been cheated out of. You are not alone in this. There can be so many things left undiscussed, so many things unresolved and the potential to feel guilt mixed in with the pain and the anger is great.

If this is you read Isaiah 54:10 "For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My loving kindness will not be removed from you, And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,' Says the LORD who has compassion on you."

Death of a child

This is perhaps death at its cruellest. Although only a century ago child mortality was commonplace today it seems unnatural and inconceivable. Why did God take him/her? What kind of a God would do that? Couldn't He have done something to stop it?

If this is you read 2 Samuel 12:21-23 "Then his servants said to him, 'What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.' He said, 'While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ''Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.'' But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.'"

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