Facing death in the family – when shadows come

Death, we say is a part of life. For a long time in my life the reality of this moment by moment occurrence – hundreds of thousands of people die daily around the world – appeared to be a distant event. Now, more and more frequently I am dealing with the issue of facing death in the family.

When those shadows come, it can take a real toll on the individual and the entire family.

There have been times when death has led to the separation of spouses and even alienation of children from their parents or siblings. To deal with this reality – death – and properly preserve relationships in is wake, we should be as prepared as possible.

To do this, it would be best to first understand death.

What is death

Death is the absence of life brought on by the spiritual problem called sin.

I am aware that some of you, my readers, may disagree on the reason I gave for death, but if you have been reading my other blogs, then by now you will know that I follow the teachings of the Holy Bible.

According to the Bible, “The wages of sin is death”. If there was no sin, there would be no death. It stands to reason then, that if sin can be removed from our world, death will also be eradicated. Through Jesus Christ, we have the faith that one day soon, sin and death will be removed from humankind and that all those who accept Him and His promise would have eternal life.

Mankind have advanced many reasons for death outside of that provided in the scriptures but none can be proven. The Biblical understanding of death and the possibility of resurrection from death has been historically written about and witnessed.

For God, death is a sleep that only He can awake us from, even if is thousands of years later. Until then, everything of and about the person perishes. The only evidence that such a person lived on the earth is the lingering memories in the heart of those that he knew, or things erected in his memory by others.

I know that many people teach that a part of the individual – the soul – goes on living, but I have never read that in the Scriptures. In fact, those holy words say that “the living know that they shall die, but the dead know not anything”.

It also says that the soul that sin will die.

When God created man, the Biblical account says that He breathed into man the breath of life and man became a “living soul”. So without the breath of life from God, we are all dead souls.

This simple understanding has helped me to face death with hope and a lot less grief.

Facing death

I have experienced the death of loved ones and more recently it hit home. My father died six (6) years ago. Prior to his death, my second brother died more that seventeen years ago. The one that hit me the hardest though, was the death of my mother. Though I knew that her time was close, losing her to this unwelcome visitor was still not a casual experience.

If you have lost your mother or someone that you really cherished, then I know that you understand exactly what I am saying. The closer you are to an individual, the more difficult it will be to deal.

At the same time, facing death does not have to be a very traumatic experience. Even if death comes suddenly, unexpectedly. To ensure that you are not traumatized, you should prepare yourself for this inevitability. First of all, accept that anyone living can die and one day will die, unless Christ returns before death.

Even if He does, there will still be those who will die, destroyed by “the brightness of His coming”. So, prepare yourself for death, from the youngest to the eldest. And that includes being prepared for your own death.

I am aware that there are some who think that if they prepare for death it will hasten its coming. I disagree. Even while you prepare, you go on living life to its fullest.

Preparing is important because there is the opportunity for eternal life after we have experienced mortality. God promises that if we accept His sacrifice and allow Him to transform us into His likeness – the way He had planned in the first place – we will receive that eternal life.

Part of our preparation for death involves accepting that transformation and living in that transformation every day of our lives.

Some people refuse to accept that death has occurred even when the lifeless corpse is lying stiff and cold before them. This only prolong the grief that comes with death. Even though you may not want death, when it comes, accept it.

If you are facing your own death, as a result of illness or old age or both, reaching out to loved ones and having what may be last words with them, is a good way to prepare. More so if there are those in your life to whom you haven’t been talking for some time. Part of dying peacefully is making peace worth those with whom you were at war.

You can also – in spite of your age – prepare your will. It is always a sad thing to see relatives fighting over the assets that was left behind after the passing of a loved one. Again, don’t think of preparing a will as a death sentence. See it as being ready for that unknown element in life.

I have to prepare mine. Where possible, it would also be helpful if you reach out to those you may have inadvertently hurt, and who have hurt you. Seek their forgiveness and offer them yours.

It can be a challenge

To those who do not prepare, the arrival of death can at appear as an insurmountable challenge. Besides the mental and emotional conflicts that comes with death, there is also the financial burden that shows up when death occurs. At such a time, the preferable thing would be for the family to know that the funds are available for the funeral and all that goes with it.

Such preparation would go a long way in helping the family to better deal with their loss.

Outside of that, each person should make the personal effort to deal with the loss and to do so in a manner that is not harmful to themselves or their loved ones.

Dealing with regrets and doubts can prove difficult after a loved one is gone. I would urge early reconciliation with anyone with whom we may have a dispute to avoid having to face this. The reason – we do not know when someone will die.

I have seen and heard too many people torture themselves over things for which they had no control. I recall having a chat with one of my sisters years after my father had died about his death. It was then she revealed that she was concerned that we were blaming her for his death. This was farthest from the truth.

In her mind however, she thought so as she had promised, when taking him to the hospital that it would only be for a short time and he would return home. The fact is that he remained there for approximately six weeks and never returned home. None of us saw this as a fault of hers, but she did and concluded that we felt the same way. I am thankful that we had the chat and cleared the air on that.

So, I would suggest that when death comes, it would be good to have a family conference and allow everyone to vent. More so if you realize that someone appears to be having difficulty dealing with the situation.

There are people who have been known to go into depression at or after the death of a loved one. We need to look out for the signs and deal with them as soon as possible.

For more information on depression, go here.

Light through the shadows

Though death is scary for many people, it does not have to be. There is hope for every single human being who has ever, who lives and who will ever live on this earth. That hope lies in the only Man who, on His own, defeated death. You may or may not have heard of Him.

He is Jesus the Christ and on one occasion, He referred to Himself as the Resurrection and the Life. He promised that ‘though you die, you will live”. But in order for that to happen, you would have to accept Him as your Lord and Savior. When you do, His promise is that for you, death is temporary.

He says that all those who die, having chosen His life, will have their lives hidden in Him with God.

I have accepted that promise with my whole heart and I know hundreds who have died with that hope in their hearts. For such, death is not seen as the end but as temporary rest from all the labors of this life.

When my mom died, she died in peace. So too did my dad and brother. There was a sweet calm on each face. That was because they died with the hope. In our circles, we call it “the blessed hope”.

Let me briefly explain what that means to me.

God created two human beings and place them in a garden called Eden as their home. All went well until the devil tempted the female – Eve – to disobey God. She then tempted her husband, who, because he knew that her disobedience would lead to her death, ate of the fruit – the evidence of their disobedience – thus choosing to die with her.

From that moment, death came upon every living thing and being on the earth. But even before this, God had made a way to bring an end to sin and death. Someone – His only Son – would come and pay the ultimate penalty for sin, eternal death.

Four thousand years later, that promise was fulfilled. His Son, Jesus Christ did come. He lived, set us the example for living and was one day crucified.

Three days later, He rose from the grave sealing forever the guarantee that one day, all those who believe in Him will be resurrected from the grave, never to die or face death again. This resurrection will come when He comes again, this time not to receive to Himself, all those who believe in Him.

For those who choose not to be separated from sin, the original sentence still holds. They will die, this time in a fire – hell – that will destroy sin, sinners, death and the one who introduced it all, the devil.

And as the fire burns, the earth is purified. As the last embers becomes ashes, the earth is recreated anew, more glorious and beautiful than it was at the beginning. In this form, it is given to those who choose Christ as their eternal inheritance.

This will be home forever. With that hope, there is no fear of death.

Continuing to live

But until then, I live knowing that any day can be my last. So I choose to live it with Christ as my Guide and example.

Earlier this week I lost a cousin-in-law of mine to death. It caused me to reflect on life and the nearness of death. I recalled that he and I used to play on the same cricket team together. We were not the best of friends but we got along. He was just a few years older than me. But he’s dead.

I mourn his passing and I empathize strongly with my cousin. She is my favorite.

But he believed what I believe and therefore I hope to see him again, resurrected into an immortal body, never to die again.

Until then, I go on living, hoping and choosing the Christlike way – by His grace – daily.

Even if the tears come, they will not last forever and they will only mean “I miss you” and “I’ll see you again – soon.

Till then, I choose to always remember the good things about him and even if/when the bad comes up, it will not be what will be used to define him. More than that, keeping in mind that death can come suddenly, I will seek to live kindly and peacefully with others, knowing that my influence can lead other to the same blessed hope.

As long as I live I choose not to be afraid of death. I know the one who defeated it.

So let us live in love and choose to love up our loved ones now. There won’t be another chance this side of eternity.

How do you feel about death? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments area down below.

2 comments

  1. Grace Paul - Reply

    Death is something we all have to come to terms with. It is not an easy thing. Thanks be to God we as Christians know that we have a great hope. Death will be no more in God’s heavenly kingdom. Thank you for being a blessing to others.

    • Russell - Reply

      Seeing a loved one lowered into a grave and hearing the dull tod of the earth on the coffin as it is covered is always an unpleasant sentation for me. What cheers me is the memory of that person and the hope to see them again. At times I may miss the person but I do not get depressed because they are no longer around. I go on living, making the best of the time that I have left, to bring that hope to others.

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