Death in the rear view mirror.

Death is easier to deal with at a distance. Death is also easier to deal with in the abstract.

From a distance, death is not too imposing. Death is kind and not bad looking. Death is really polite at a distance. You can still have your dreams and the hope of having them fulfilled. There is no sense of urgency at a distance.

In the abstract, meaning when we are talking to people about their death and not ours, our conversations are filled with, oughts, shoulds, justs, and other simple answers. There is no personal context to muddy the waters of discussion.

However, death in the rearview mirror can be as imposing as the T-Rex in “Jurassic Park.” Its jaws are snapping and the mirror reminds us that “Objects are closer than they appear.”

Okay, it isn't Jurassic Park. Death is scary enough!
Okay, it isn’t Jurassic Park. Death is scary enough!

A dinosaur in the abstract is a discussion point. A dinosaur at your six is a matter of survival.

I know how I have been told to look at death. Believe me, I look at death a lot. Everyone I know that has insights into death (including me) have never died before. So, there is a bit of a credibility gap when anyone (including me) has anything profound to say about how anyone should face death.

How I think about death and my reaction to those thoughts reminds me to lean into the resurrection, the new heaven and earth, and everlasting life. Those thoughts give me strength. Although most of their strength is in the abstract and at a distance. I really do need to lean into those ideas and lean on Jesus more.

Why do I say this? Because talking with people about death and dying should be filled with silence and reverence. It should be filled with questions over answers. In other words, I should step into the closeness and reality of death and sit with the holy awe of the mysteries of death and dying.

When I lean into Jesus at times when death is opening the car door and ready to become a passenger instead of a pursuer, I recognize that I am not alone. While there is a certain sense of fear and even panic, I am also reassured that I am not alone in this journey. I can be scared and know that God will hold my hand and walk with me on this journey.

I have seen death in the room. I have seen death sit with folks. I have seen every sort of emotion when death is in the room. What I need to see is Jesus sitting in the room, as well. I need to see him slowing building up the trust[1] in the person that is dying to help them make the transition from this life to the next.

Death, for me, is best viewed at a distance and in the abstract. However, it is always a present reality. Lord, give me the eyes to see you in these times and calm my fears.

[1] Jessica Kelley’s testimony at Woodland Hills Church: