Death Waits

I work at a funeral home. It can be sad, but I find it more rewarding than anything else. It’s a privilege to be able to serve your fellow men and women in their deepest time of need.

Usually, the funerals aren’t so bad. Someone’s 90-year-old mother finally succumbed to time’s suffocating grasp, perhaps. Sad, certainly. But not tragic. The families of those who pass when it feels right often have feelings tinged with relief, or even joy, that their loved one’s suffering has ended.

Today is not one of those funerals. “Tom” was 63. He was a good Christian, good family man, and an all-around nice guy. He was an outdoorsman who was loved by many.

Tom died from a fall off his ladder while hanging Christmas lights, four days after his 63rd birthday.

Death does not care how many hearts you have touched. She does not care whose life you changed, or how much money you donated or squandered. She does not care if you were a great saint or a diabolical sinner.

She simply waits.

Death has a job to do. As unpleasant as her work might be, it serves an important purpose, one that allows the generation and preservation of new life. Without Death, our world would be a hellscape of inescapable agony and despair.

But the alternative being worse does not make the reality any more palatable. It brings the grieving no comfort to be reminded of the necessity of Death. And our tortured contemplation of our own mortality is not soothed by also contemplating how miserable eternal temporal life would be.

No, we all fear Death, be it ours or another’s. We know this is because we fear the unknown, of what really happens after the terminal breath is drawn. But we are also afraid of when it will happen, and of how.

When will we die? What about our parents, our spouse, our best friend? And what will do it? We pray for a peaceful death, but this is a plea, not a guarantee. What do we do when someone dies before we planned in a way we never expected?

Death waits, but not for us. She does not operate on our schedule. She will not wait for you to be able to walk your daughter down the aisle, or for you to tell your husband you love him one last time. Her calendar is hers alone, and it is merciless.

Death is sad when an old man or woman stops fighting the progression of age or disease. That, at least, is somewhat expected. Death is tragic when she steals from us someone who, according to us, still had time. When a child gets cancer, when a car rolls over, when a ladder is too shaky. Then, we curse Death.

But still, she comes.

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