Monday, February 06, 2017

Will you miss me when I'm gone?

One of the many virtues of the Christian faith is the value it places on human death. Atheism necessarily trivializes human death. According to naturalistic evolution, human death is a natural and inevitable feature of the lifecycle. We are merely physical organisms. We mature to the point where we can make and raise our replacements. After that, we've outlived our usefulness. Death is something you should just accept. 

Christianity rebels against the naturalistic acquiescence to death. Yet because death is so "normal", it still takes an effort to retain the sense of outrage in the face of death. A couple of statements by Gary North on the death of his son:

Our children bury us. Most of us do not bury our children. I know of no greater blessing in the modern world. It is a blessing not known throughout most of man's history. Be grateful for it. We take it for granted. 
We do not normally bury our children. They bury us. So, we regard our relationships with them as permanent for us, though not for them.

What Gary says is true, but overlooks something. Of course, he's discussing grief from his own perspective, which is natural. Yet Gary had four kids, including an older son. 

In the age of modern medicine, that means siblings expect their relationships with each other to be nearly as permanent. Indeed, because one sibling normally predeceases another, those who die first had brothers or sisters in their entire lives right up until the end–just like parents who predecease their kids. 

It's not just Gary who lost a son he expected to be a part of his life until the father died, but an older brother who lost a younger brother he expected to be a part of his life until one of them outlived the other–in old age. Indeed, because siblings are a generation younger, we expect to have them in our lives long after we lose our parents. That's a kind of "gift" that parents give to their children. After your parents are gone, you still have your siblings–assuming you had a brother or sister.  

Of course, siblings vary in their degree of attachment. For instance, Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland were not on speaking terms for nearly the final forty years of their lives. The lost opportunities are so sad.

I had a cousin who died as a teenager. He developed bone cancer in junior high, and died in high school. He didn't die from cancer, but complications due to therapy. The radiation destroyed his respiratory system.

I saw his older brother give the eulogy at the funeral service. His brother could barely get through the eulogy. The loss was so wrenching.

Imagine if his younger brother was restored to life, forty years later. What would his older brother do with him? His younger brother would still be a teenager, while his older brother would now be around 60. A husband, father, grandfather. 

My point is how death disrupts relationships. Not just the abrupt dislocation, but the fact that we normally go through life together with siblings. Grow up together, a few years apart. Come of age a few years apart, marry a few years apart, have kids a few years apart. Go through the phases of life one step behind the other. So much in common.

If your prematurely deceased brother or sister were to miraculously come back to life, forty years later, you could no longer relate to them on the same level, because they're now so far behind you. Like they were frozen in time. Stepped out of the time capsule. It's too late to pick up where you left off. Too much water has passed under the bridge. The untimely demise of a siblings is irreparable in that additional sense. Nothing in this life can fix it, even if they came back to us, years later–as if nothing happened to them. 

1 comment:

  1. Man this post made me think about just how awful death it is even more so for siblings and not just for the parents.