On Death and Dying

August 8, 2017

The grim reaper has been busy this week. With everything that has been happening around me, I felt the need to write this blog today.

Yesterday, August 7 was my dad’s birthday. If he were alive today, he would be 87 years old. Every year since his death in 2011, I have lit a candle, proverbially speaking, in some form or another to celebrate his birthday and his life.

I often think of his last years when we both enjoyed our weekly Sunday night phone calls. Although those phone calls only started after his life slowed down, it was a tradition that still holds great significance for me. Every Sunday night I wish I could just dial up heaven to talk to him. I miss him greatly.

The second reason for this blog (and perhaps the reason why I am writing this blog in the first place) is that a friend of mine passed away yesterday on my dad’s birthday. She wasn’t a close friend, but a friend nonetheless, someone who impacted my life. This week I will discover more about her life as I spend time with those who loved her.

The subject of death began raising its ugly head last week when I heard of the sudden horrific death of the son of a dear friend of one of my closest friends. He was not someone I knew, but his death still impacted me because it was caused by the hands of others. The parents of that young man will not have closure on that death for a very long time. Graphic and sickening, nothing like this should ever happen, but sadly it does.

Death happens in different ways and no death is ever the same as another, regardless of similarities. Each of the above deaths was very different from the other. The impact on those left behind is nonetheless, traumatic.

My Dad was ill for about two months before he passed. He suffered slowly, his pain and medications gradually increasing until the end. He had plenty of time to say good-bye to family and friends, and he didn’t take this time lightly.

His journey of dying encouraged me to appreciate the value of time in our lives and the importance of making a positive impact on others. After his death, I began to be more grateful for the loved ones in my life. The accumulation of things lost its meaning. I no longer needed to possess as I once did. I learned the importance of ‘being’ in the moment, taking each day as it comes, and becoming more adaptable to the changes in life. With the intentional practice of mindfulness, I continue to learn to ‘let go and let God’. This too encourages me to become more thankful.

My friend’s death was very different from my dad’s. She went suddenly during the night, completely unexpected to everyone. She was still young, in her 60th year, just slightly younger than me. She had no close family and only a few friends that she could count on. She had no time to prepare. Neither she nor her estranged family succeeded in making the effort to repair the wounds from the past. In the end, it was her roommate and her church community that were her family.

I wonder about the thoughts and emotions that her family are dealing with today. I wonder about the regrets that they will feel. How will they cope with the reminders of the many moments of friction that passed between them? Regardless of their relationship, I have no doubt that they will still experience her loss as tragic. And they grieve greatly.

This death teaches the lesson of the importance of resolving conflict and forgiving others quickly. Because we don’t know when we will have another chance. But true forgiveness requires repentance from all concerned. This is only possible if both sides agree to put differences aside and accept each other as the flawed humans that we all are. If only we could embrace the importance of this task.

The death from last week has very different lessons to be learned. This was a young man tragically dying at the hands of others. Completely unexpected and so horrific, it causes bile to rise in our throats from the anger boiling in our bellies.

Things like this shouldn’t happen, but when they do we wonder why.

Is it that our modern world no longer sees life as sacred, but rather as disposable? If so, we need to bring the value of sanctity back to our technological preoccupied world. We are not machines to be disposed of. We need to say no to death and yes to life. The dignity of living requires the education of the principles of respect and honor. A tragic death reminds us that we, as a society, need to re-evaluate those basic human values.

Three very different deaths. Three very different lives. All with valuable lessons to be learned.

Whether expected or unexpected, death is always a kick in the gut forcing us to pay attention to life. Death forces us to pause. It brings us face-to-face with our mortality. It encourages us to review our own lives. It enables us to re-examine our relationships with others. It gives us the opportunity to forgive both those who have died and those around us who are still living. It allows us the chance to grow as human souls, to increase our compassion, to look beyond ourselves and see life from another perspective.

And perhaps, most importantly, death taps us on the shoulder and says, “what’s next?”

Death can be our biggest motivator to change.

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Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels

Investigating the claims of the Gospels by J Warner Wallace

Source: Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels

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What Kind of Spirit have You Been Given?

A great blog.

LiifeTree: equipping in identity, spirituals, mental health, healing, wonder...

Running several leg lengths would allow me to vault myself past the first couple stairs so that “it” would have less chance to grab my ankles and pull me into the black abyss. Such was my strategizing after about 7 years on semi-hostile planet earth.

Of course my burgeoning rational capabilities argued The Boogeyman didn’t exist and couldn’t possibly live under the basement stairs in a space of 4h x 3w, but my older brother was quite convincing. He had the ability to authentically mimic a police car siren so that my parents pulled off to the side of the road, looking for the flashing red and blues more than once. He could imitate several of The Muppets, like Gonzo and the Swedish Chef and other TV/movie characters. I was convinced a job was waiting for him in Walt Disney’s studios, so you can see why I might have been…

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Is it Mental illness, or is it Psychological Warfare?

Several years ago, I had an a very negative experience.  The church I attended was experiencing some big changes and although these were good, an enemy had an agenda too. Difficulties b…

Source: Is it Mental illness, or is it Psychological Warfare?

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The Mutual Exclusivity of Atheism and Math

Source: The Mutual Exclusivity of Atheism and Math

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The Refugee Dilemma

As the controversy over Syrian refugees rages on, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this situation, and for the longest time I got sucked into the spirit of fear over this issue. Then a number of things struck me.
Firstly, some of my grandparents were refugees and some were immigrants. The refugees relied on the immigrants for help in adjusting to Canadian life. They didn’t speak a word of English when they arrived, and one even had health problems that prevented him from joining his family for a period of time. He was held in a “detention” area until he was deemed well enough to travel. Many of my grandparents’ peers were also refugees. Running to escape war and terror in Ukraine. They arrived with nothing but the clothes on their backs and hands willing to work. Embarrassed by their situation (since they once had property and money), they did everything possible to repay their sponsors for their debts of transportation across the Atlantic. They worked hard, they built businesses and churches and taught their children and grandchildren the importance of hard work and getting along with others. They were part of the new multi-cultural ethnic Canadians.
So here I am, almost 100 years later born and raised into Canadian society. Where would I be today if they hadn’t decided to make Canada their home? Would I even exist? Would they have been murdered like so many of their families and peers? I exist because they took the chance to cross the Atlantic and build a new home in a foreign country. I am grateful for that.

Regarding this new influx of refugees, one of the fears that exist is “who will pay to support these refugees while they go through the transitional period?” “Will they try to work, or will they depend on the public welfare system for support indefinitely?” “Our health care system can’t even handle our population, how will they handle a massive influx so quickly?” I think what we forget is that Canada brings in tens of thousands of refugees every year. We don’t hear about it so much because they come from many places around the world. Somehow we always find space for them, and most of them eventually adjust to Canadian society, finding jobs and creating businesses. If the first generation has difficulty adapting, successive generations usually adapt quite well. The difference this year is that the refugees are coming from one area of the world and are a particular migrant type, predominately associated with a particular religious group that is linked to the issue that is causing the problems in the first place.
People are afraid that terrorism activities will suddenly develop here in our country. The unfortunate reality is that there are already terror cells in our country that are being monitored by proper authorities. No, we don’t want those cells to increase and we would like to see them all disrupted and disappear. However, when you look at the individuals who have participated in the terror attacks around the world, they are often home grown with no previous signs of desiring to cause such destruction. Yes, its possible (as in the Paris attacks) that some individuals will slip through the screening process and cause future problems. Do we stop an influx of genuine refugees from obtaining safety and security, food and shelter because there might be a few bad apples in the bunch?

At some point we have to trust the vetting process. Ordinary citizens are not in control of the vetting process. The UN and other agencies are put in place to do that job. Those persons are trained and have been doing this job for many years. Think of it this way: do you go to your untrained next door neighbor for medical advice when you are sick, or do you go to your doctor? Every occupation has its experts, and we need to trust the process and rely on those experts to do what they do best.
Then there is the religion issue. Canada & the USA have been (since their founding) primarily two christian nations built on christian principles. Will an influx of people from other religions change the religious makeup of our culture? Yes, probably. However, here is another possibility to chew on. What if every church took one family and introduced them to our christian value system where we (as at least we are supposed to) teach and PRACTICE love in the real world. Can we introduce love and show how it can replace fear? Would that change the world we live in?
As christians, we are supposed to be working to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. How can we do that without disrupting culture? Love dispels hate, love squashes fear, love embraces change. If we can’t show love, what are we showing? Jesus disrupted the culture of his day, he embraced the downtrodden, the homeless, the lepers, and the worst sinners of his society (even tax collectors!). He changed their world and in the process changed the culture of the entire world forever. He taught love to everyone he met. In the process he spoke truth and called a spade a spade. He was not politically correct in his generation and the authorities hated him for that and eventually killed him for that. But he showed us something else very important: Light dispels darkness. Darkness does not invade light unless we allow it to do so.
These new immigrants will disrupt our current culture and our current society. They may bring with them fear, hate, and other disparaging problems. Its possible. But its also possible that they might not. How we react to them will determine whether or not we will disrupt a culture of fear and hate and replace it with a culture of love and honor, or whether we will allow the fear and hate to continue. If we can be a light in a dark world, the darkness will flee. If we can bring hope we will bring faith. If we can bring faith, we will bring love. In the end love conquers all.

[ Love Your Enemies ] “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren[i]only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors[j] do so?48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.Matthew 5:43-48 (NKJV) BibleGateway.com

Today’s prayer: Dear Father God, please help us to remember why you came to earth. You came to show us love, show us hope and show us who you are. You modelled how we are to live and how we are to die. You showed us your true heart through the life and death of your only son, Jesus the Messiah, the Christ. Remind us of the great love that he shared with us. He died for us so that we could live. Our sins forgiven forever so that we can live feeling loved and forgiven, without guilt and shame. And we can look forward to an eternity in your presence where the fullness of your love will envelope us for all eternity.  Help us to be love to those around us, to build communities of love and faith and forgiveness. Help us to be a light in a very dark world. Help us to bring your kingdom to earth. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

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