Thursday, May 26, 2011

Death Unaddressed

In my estate planning legal practice, I am constantly amazed at the how some clients go to great lengths to avoid thinking about their death. I recently had the privilege of representing a successful business owner. While my client would attend all of our meetings, his wife would not attend. When I brought this matter to the husband’s attention, he indicated that his wife couldn’t bear to attend, as the thought of her own death was, in his words, “too depressing to her.” Similarly, another client, a widow, began weeping during a meeting. While I initially thought that she was weeping over the death of her late husband, I soon realized that she was weeping over the thought of her own death.

Carolyn Arends writes, “Death unaddressed is the bogeyman in the basement; it keeps us looking over our shoulders and holds us back from entering joyously into the days we are given. But death dragged out from the shadows and held up to the light of the gospel not only loses its sting, it becomes an essential reminder to wisely use the life we have.” Arends, Going Down Singing, Christianity Today, April 2011.

In Philippians 1, Paul notes how he was torn between Heaven and earth. While He longed to die and be in Heaven, with Christ, he also felt a significant desire to stay with, and minister to, the young believers. Because living meant “fruitful labor,” he was convinced that God was calling him to stay. Just the same, he noted that he viewed his own death as gain. (verse 21).

Historian David McCollough notes that one of George Washington’s greatest strengths was his ability to see past the way he wanted to see the situation of the colonial army and see the situation for what it really was. (McCollough, 1776). How about you? Are you able to look past the temporary nature of life and see life for what it is—a vapor? Are you able to view life as but a precursor to eternity?

Since Micah’s death, I have been blessed to have a clearer understanding of my own mortality, the mortality of my family and friends, and a greater desire to depart and be with Jesus and Micah. I pray that all of us develop a greater desire to know Christ in our lives and to have a realistic understanding of the brevity and nature of this earthly, temporary existence. I pray for a peace in Christ as we look ahead to the moment of our death, that our hearts not be filled with dread, but with a welcome smile, knowing what and who are behind that curtain that separates the mortal from the immortal. I pray that we not balk at the thought of our last breath but that, in the words of Carolyn Arends, we plan to “go down singing.”