Society is pretty callous about death. To some extent this is obviously exacerbated by the loss of Christian values. Abortion, euthanasia.
But at a more subtle and general level, society distinguishes between death by natural causes and death by unnatural causes. If you lose a loved one by unnatural causes, like an accident or murder, then society is very sympathetic. Even if you loved one dies in a natural disaster, society classifies that causality as an unnatural death. It makes allowance for the fact that survivors may be shattered for life by this experience. The sudden, premature separation.
If, however, you lose a loved one by natural causes, you’re allowed a decent time to grieve, but after that you’re expected to bounce back and get on with life. Put away the Kleenex.
And that’s because death by natural causes is considered to be normal. Ordinary. Everyone loses someone they love by natural causes. This is a universal experience. And because it’s so ordinary and commonplace, society takes it for granted. Like wisdom teeth.
Yet whether you lose a loved one by natural or unnatural causes, the loss is identical. Just as real. And since the loss is identical, the sense of loss is identical. It feels exactly the same whether you lose a loved one by natural causes or the downing of the Titanic.
In this respect, we’re all survivors. We’re in the same emotional and psychological state as those who lost their loved ones from a tornado or drug overdose or drive-by shooting or traffic accident or industrial explosion.
We’ve simply learned to suppress our grief. Cover up our feelings. Act as if it never happened. It’s like an open wound that we keep bandaged and discreetly concealed. As if it were shameful.
Society is impatient with the inconsolable, so we play our role. Act Stoical. We may even imagine that this is our duty. It happens to everyone, right? I’ve read that in Sweden, graves are paved over after 10 years.
That’s secularism for you. A human being is just a temporary and peculiar organization of matter, like a chair or TV set. When a TV is busted, you toss it in the dumpster.
In secularism, human beings are replaceable and disposable. No one grieves over the loss of a broken appliance. You throw it away and buy a new one.
But mourning is a lifelong process. I often go to the local cemetery to pray. There I see a handful of widows, widowers, and grown children who visit the gravesite of their departed loved ones every week. They change the flowers. Water the grounds. Do a bit of weeding. Say a prayer. Have a conversation their departed father or mother, husband or wife.
Of course, their loved ones aren’t really there, but the gravesite is their only earthly point of contact with the departed. A memorial. A little beachhead against the torrent of time.
But, in Scripture, there is no distinction between death by natural causes and death by unnatural causes. In Scripture, every death of every man, woman, and child is due to unnatural causes. Due, directly or indirectly, to sin. To Adam’s sin.
The first man to die didn’t die of old age, or even disease. He died in his prime. The victim of homicide. Worse than homicide—fratricide.
So Adam and Eve had to morn the loss of two sons—one by murder, the other by banishment. And they, too, lived in exile. Denied the tree of life.
And that was a mercy. Immortality in a fallen world would be hell on earth.
Every birth ends in death. Today we celebrate the birth of another mortal. Another fatality. Another actuarial statistic. Indeed, he was born to die.
Ironically, this is the only person who ever lived and died, but never deserved to die. Who came to redeem the undeserving.
There is no healing in time, but only in hope.