"Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away" (Genesis 5:24).
When he was asked his thoughts on death, comedian Woody Allen said, "I am not afraid of dying--I just don't want to be there when it happens.” Allen isn't alone. A century before him, Mark Twain is reported to have said that he wished he knew where he was going to die because he would never go near the place.
I wish I didn't have to believe in cancer, or hunger, or infidelity, or the evils of a society that are out of control, along with death and dying, but it’s there, just the same. Knowing about something, believing in its reality, makes me want to prepare for it, not to be caught unawares wishing I had thought about it beforehand.
But strange, isn't it, how little time or thought we put into the issue of what lies beyond our last heartbeat, almost thinking that by ignoring the whole issue it ceases to exist? I'm encouraged that in recent days, this issue called "the last taboo" by Bill and Judith Moyers, is beginning to get our attention. For several years they interviewed people and wrote about death and dying to bring people into confrontation with the choices that ultimately have to be made--either by yourself or by someone else when you avoid the issues.
I, for one, am glad that we've begun to talk about the issue. My parents' generation refused to talk about our humanity. After spending a week with my dad prior to his death, I came back home. My wife's parents were wonderful, Godly people. As a pastor, Guy Duffield had stood over the caskets of scores of people, but in the days that followed, never once was there mention of my dad's death or what we went through. Finally, my wife asked, "Why haven't we been able to talk about this?" Their fear was that talking about it would make us feel worse.
To the contrary. We needed to talk about it. When I go overseas as I often do and visit someplace I have never been to before, I try to find out what to expect once I have arrived--the climate, the culture, the weather, the belief systems and so forth. I want to know as much as I can to insure not only a safe trip but to know that on my arrival I will have what I need. I'm interested not only in the journey in getting there but the destination once I have arrived.
Seldom do people have a game plan when it comes to death and dying. Possibly they have a will, but chances are it is one which was drawn up years before. Knowing where you are going and where you will be five minutes after you die can also give you freedom to talk about heaven--a blessing to the generation left behind as well as the one taking the journey. Following the death of a loved one, people often frantically turn pages of the Bible saying, "I know there's something in this book about heaven. I just don't know where." Find out ahead of time. Study the Word together. Talk about the past, the present, and the future.
Decide ahead of time who will make decisions if you can't, what kind of medical treatment you want or don't want, and what you want your family to know about you that you haven't told them. Those are decisions you need to make now.
"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints," says Psalm 116:15. If it is precious to God, it should be meaningful to us as His children. While the homegoing of God's children is filled with mystery and awe, it is also a spiritual experience of great dimensions.
Death is as much part of life as are birth and what takes place in between.
Resource reading: 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11