We live in a unique time when it comes to death. Up until the last one or two hundred years or so, it was quite common for people to live in multigenerational homes. Great grandparents, grandparents, parents, and children all living together underneath one roof. Now, it is more common that each generation lives separately in their own dwelling. Instead of the old dying with their loved ones, they often die in a nursing home or hospital bed. The children are often spared the grief of seeing death face to face and as such are totally unprepared to deal with it when it comes time for someone very close to them to go or even when it’s their own time. In a world so sanitized of pain and suffering, those who are qualified to deal with it are minute few.
Though there are exceptions, in today’s society, few people are with those in their final moments more than Pastors and doctors. It used to be that people would witness death throughout their life from being very young up until their final moments. They would watch great grandparents, grandparents, parents and sometimes more pass before their eyes when the time came. If they worked on a farm, death was a regular occurrence with the butchering of animals for food. A certain respect and understanding was developed throughout life. It seems today that more often than not, children are kept at bay when a grandparent dies with only the direct children of the grandparent there (if a family member is there at the time of death at all). Even when it comes to those with pets, how often does the child deal with it directly? How often does a parent shield their child as much as possible to ease the burden?
Throughout my life, I have intentionally exposed myself to death. Some horrors such as beheadings, car accidents, and other atrocities; others simply just a persons final moments as they naturally pass from this life to the next. Yet I’ve never seen anyone die in person. Not even an animal. Though I probably have more intimate knowledge on the subject than most of my friends, I cannot say that I am prepared for it when the time comes. I like to think that I know how I’ll be when a loved one finally dies or when I’m in my final moments, but like most people today, my experiences with death are totally dethatched. Even with loved ones and friends, I wasn’t their with them in their final moments.
Pastors and Doctors, however, they see it all. They are there at those final moments. They can develop that appreciation and understanding that most of us don’t get because they are around it, they are in it. I think today, Pastors are more important than ever because in our sterilized world, they are perhaps more often than not the only ones who can truly prepare us for the end.