In my chosen profession I am with people as they prepare for death and with families after they lose a loved one. Often I hear "How can you do that?" "Isn't it depressing?" and my answer is no, in fact I find it rewarding and I am honored to have the opportunity to serve in this manner.
My first experience with death was difficult. I occurred nine days before my ninth birthday. I was given the news no child wants to hear. My dad had died. It was not totally unexpected. He had been critically ill for six weeks and mom had been preparing my brother and I for the news she knew was coming, daddy would not be coming home from the hospital. While the news was sad and I was overcome with grief I did find comfort in the words she used and the ones she didn't use in giving us the news. I think the way she told us prepared me for this special work God had planned for me.
It was a Monday afternoon May 22, 1967. As the bus drove by our house to drop us off at the bus stop I immediately knew this was not going to be a normal day. I saw the cars of relatives and friends in the driveway and lining the street near the house. As we entered the house all eyes turned towards us and the silence noticeable. One of my relatives, I can remember which one, hugged us and took us to our mom who was seated in the "Kings Chair". We sat on her lap and she explained that God only loans people to us, some for a very long time and others for a very short time and that our dad was only loaned to us for a very short time.
With those words she told us that life on this earth is limited and death is a reality of life. A sad reality but none the less a reality. But what she did not say was just as powerful. She never tried to offer an explanation as to why God only loans some to us for a short time. That was smart as even the bible does not explain why God chooses to call people home when He does. I have since learned that God has a plan and knows far more than you and I. I trust in His plan and accept it even when it hurts and causes me pain. But how I came to understand and accept that is another story.
Over the years I had a yearning to study the bible and find out more about our earthly death and what happens after we leave this earth. The verse that I find the most comforting and hopeful is the Gospel of John, Chapter 14: 1-6 (ESV).
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."