A good man was laid to rest in our church yesterday. My friend was 86, full of years by any measure, and full of life until the end—He went bird hunting with family and his beloved dogs just weeks ago. He loved his wife, all their kids, and Jesus Christ. He was universally appreciated as kind, principled, faithful and encouraging.
Hundreds came to honor him, love his family, and send him off with their prayers and their hope for the resurrection. We shared and sang with hope and gusto, and afterward folks lingered for hours. It was a reunion filled with good memories and joy.
Many things make for a good memorial. Comfort at the end, the presence of family and friends, saying good-byes and sharing funny stories with love. A full obituary, noting community services and honors and appreciation. Closure—no unfinished business to be cleaned up.
But what goes into a good death? Certainly, if pain and suffering are involved, release is welcome. If life has become socially painful, with conflicts and anger, release is welcome. But these are good escapes from bad circumstances, the consequences of original sin and our constant sins against God and each other. But we are cut off, we cannot see or touch or converse any more. We can’t forgive, make amends, or show honor. As the song goes, we realize our life is “being done too soon.”
We were not made to die. We were made to live—to live full and joyful lives, with our Father. Lent reminds us that this world is not Heaven, that death makes us cry, that we must hope and pray for true healing.
Jesus died for us, in our place, for resurrection and life without end. That is the good death.