Thursday, May 15, 2008

Responding to Death

Someone close to someone close to you dies and you feel obligated to say those fitting, proper and consoling words. Having said these words, whatever they may be, you are left with the realization that your words are insufficient, they are impotent and annoyingly cliche. My first response to such helplessness in consolation is to be completely silent, to sit with the griever, hugging, crying, listening. And maybe this is what many grievers need: a silent hugger.

However, there are at least two other responses to death, even if such responses are not spoken right away to the one grieving. King Solomon says that "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth." This is comforting to know when you are faced with seemingly helpless mourners; if the benefit of experiencing the death of an other is on your mind, namely, increased wisdom, you can be satisfied with your otherwise fidgety silence. The second response I have in mind is the way in which death is spoken of after Jesus was resurrected out of it. For example, when Paul wrote to the Romans he included death in an incredible list of things that are incapable of separating the people of God from the love of God in Jesus Christ.