Saturday, November 20, 2010

More on Death

Wow, I'm just Miss Merry Little Sunshine today, aren't I?

Anyway, this essay on "dying with dignity" by David Mills really hit home for me a couple weeks ago.  It came as I was getting ready for yet another funeral, and basically doing (to be blunt) "Death Watch" for another member.  I wish that I could just cut and paste the entire thing right here, but I think that violates all kinds of "fair use" restrictions.  So I'll put some of the best, and then encourage you to go read it all.

In discussing the current trend toward "Death with Dignity," he writes,
“Death with dignity” offers not only an escape from pain and humiliation, but a rational and apparently noble way to leave this life. All it requires is that you declare yourself God. Make yourself the lord of life and death, and you can do what you want. All you have to do, as a last, definitive act, is to do what you’ve been doing all your life, every time you sin: declare yourself, on the matter at hand, the final authority, the last judge, the one vote that counts.
But you are not God, and, the Christian believes, the decision of when to leave this life is not one he has delegated to you. To put it bluntly, he expects you to suffer if you are given suffering and to put up with indignities if you are given indignities. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord. And that, as far as dying goes, is that.
For the Christian, Mills says, "dying with dignity" means something else altogether:
This is what my father taught me: to die with dignity means to accept what God has given you and deal with it till the end. It means to play the hand God has dealt you, no matter how bad a hand it is, without folding. It means actually to live as if the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, and in either case blessed be the name of the Lord.
And here is why:

It’s what Jesus did: dying with dignity, in obedience to his Father suffering all the pain and humiliation this world could give. That is something to remember, after celebrating the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, of those who have gone before us, if we want some day ourselves to be among the faithful departed.
For some reason, Mills' thoughts here remind me of the Nunc Dimmitis, aka Luke 2:29-32.  The ESV Translation reads:
Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people, Israel.
From years of the LBW, the "translation" in my head is
♪ Lord, now you let your servant go in peace, your word has been fulfilled.
My own eyes have seen the salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of every people.
A light to reveal you to the nations, and the glory of your people, Israel. ♫
Love, love, love this.  Read it at my funeral, mkay?

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