The Ravages of Death

This blog is not my first blog, I should say. I kept a Tumblr blog (also called "Life in the Whirlwind") for years that inspired this more official one. Though I decided to change my tone slightly on this site, there is a lot of important content over on that blog that I never want to forget or lose. I went through a lot in life as I blogged over there, particularly a lot of loss. You can see it threaded throughout the entries, quotes, photos, songs. About one year ago, I posted an entry on it entitled "The Ravages of Death," and today I find myself needing to post it again.

This past week, friends of mine lost an immediate family member tragically. His death (and his life, really) had many similarities to that of a friend I lost in 2012. After the funeral this weekend, I went in search for this old post from a year ago because I so needed to read it again. It felt so similar to what was said at the funeral. After reading it I decided to repost it here, at the end of this entry.

The funeral held this weekend had a quality that can only be described as "accurate." I hate funerals or memorial services where the tragedy is smoothed over with false smiles and quips. That's not real. That's not true to death's nature. Death lays waste, wreaks havoc, pillages, plunders, ransacks. If we paint it any differently, we are lying. One young man who prayed at this weekend's funeral said in his prayer, "This is not what You made us for. We weren't made to grieve. We weren't made to die."

When we smooth over death, minimize its reputation for destruction, we also minimize the reputation of a truly amazing, grieving God. We are a culture who seems to be "allergic to death" as one of my professors once said, so instead of lamenting we smooth. We adorn ourselves in fake smiles and fake strength while God weeps.

The pastor who delivered the meditation at this funeral talked about real lament, talked about how the Christian Scriptures include grief as deep as Psalm 88 which ends with these two sentences: "You have taken away my companions and loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend." The pastor told us these are the kinds of words God wants us to direct at Him, these words are the ones that hold the appropriate level of intimacy with a God who weeps at death. And thank God, He does. He weeps.

Posted on January 29, 2013 on my "Life in the Whirlwind" Tumblr . . .

Yesterday while I was doing an assignment for a class, I had to read the story of Jesus going to meet Lazarus’s grieving sisters (John 11). Lots of people are familiar with the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:33 – “Jesus wept” – but these two words hold more power and meaning than entire volumes of books. In two words, death is summed up.

This past May our friend Ian died way too young. He was 19. I would cry for hours at a time. I would take long drives with the windows down and the music blasting just to feel something. But the whole time kept wondering why my entire summer (and life, really) was changed by Ian’s very sudden death. I wasn’t that close to him. We were kindred spirits, definitely. But I asked myself all summer, “Why is my grief, of all people’s, so deep?” I didn’t feel like I deserved to grieve that deeply, to be honest. I almost felt guilty.

When Jesus got to this scene – basically the viewing of dead Lazarus – he fell apart. A commentary I read said that he was moved to his very core, his center of being, by a sense of “painful disorganization.”

He wept because he saw the ravages of death.

Suddenly this whole summer’s sadness had meaning to me. I was ravaged by Ian’s death, because he shouldn’t have died. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

And then I wept.
And it was more raw than all the times this summer,
because I finally understood why I could.