Shaped by Death
We are outliving our bodies. Over the last century, especially, humanity’s life expectancy has greatly increased. This is due to scientific discoveries and medical breakthroughs, among other things. I am no doctor or scientist, but I know that we are living longer. And longer is not always better. Quantity of life does not equal quality of life.
I have written before about my grandparents – when body and spirit don’t dance. My 89-year-old grandfather outlived his kidneys five years ago and has been on thrice weekly dialysis treatments ever since. He can no longer get himself to the bathroom, and the only dancing he does is in his dreams and occasionally when he sings to his wife, my grandmother.
She has suffered from dementia for a while and is on Hospice care. Some dear soul comes to clean her and care for her everyday, where she lays on a hospital bed in my parents’ house, next to my grandfather. At 88-years-old, her body has outlived her mind, just barely. And yet, she continues to exist.
Existence is barely surviving. And surviving is not thriving.
Oh, sure, some among us live life to the fullest until the very end of their 90-plus years. But they are more the exception than the rule. This is the conversation we had at church today, when discussing joys and concerns. We celebrate those who are able to live at home, drive, and enjoy life. We mourn those who have outlived their bodies and are in and out of the hospital, watching time go by.
Our culture seems to wish death away, as if it is something to be feared and scorned and overcome. Medicine and technology can keep us alive. And many of us want as many days, months, and years as humanly possible.
Jesus, the One was human and divine, was able to tell a young girl who had been declared to get up and eat. I think we can all agree that young people ought not suffer and die before “their time.” Before experiencing true life.
And yet some continue to avoid “their time,” as if death is worse than living with pain, confined to a bed, unable to care for oneself, or enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. I submit that it is not.
Of course, we cannot simply die when it is convenient. We must wait until our bodies (or brains) fully give out. But we can draft Living Wills and sign Do Not Resuscitate orders. (This is all easier said than done, I realize.)
Death is inevitable, and sometimes it is very sad. But sometimes it is life-giving, to the one who suffered, and to loved ones who carried heavy burdens.
In this time of Lent, we are on the way to the Cross, where Jesus died. Good Friday is a day of mourning. Depending on theology/Christology, it either was or was not “his time,” but he, too, outlived his body . . . in a way to be celebrated. No longer a Suffering Servant, on the third day, Christ rose. The Spirit is alive and well with us, shaping how we live and how we die.
If there is hope in outliving our bodies, it is that we are in good company. May we be comforted by the One who is in our living and dying. And with that knowledge, I pray that we may all live well, body and spirit. And when our bodies die, I pray that our Spirits may know peace.
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Former international fashion model Rev. Sarah Renfro seeks to boost the body image of young women by educating them on the myths of media and focusing on divine within. She also preaches and teaches about marriage and divorce, motherhood, ministry, and mental illness.