Facing death, rethinking life

August 9, 2023 | News | Volume 27 Issue 16D
Melody Steinman |
Melody Steinman with her mother. (Supplied photo)

I find myself in the middle of living and I am faced with death. Although it was expected, I was still surprised when a friend of mine died earlier this year. Another dear friend of more than 30 years was diagnosed with stomach cancer and four weeks later he had died. I had the privilege of helping to plan and speak at his celebration of life. One of the benefits of his death is that I am seeing his partner again regularly. Through these experiences, I have learned in a fresh way that death is unavoidable.  

I am also regularly confronted with death in the long-term care facility where I work. I remember the shock of finding out a woman died when I came back from my lunch break. When I delivered the mail to the residents later that afternoon, the man who lived across the hallway had lots of questions. I answered what factual questions I could freely without breaking confidentiality and just listened to the rest. Although death is more expected in old age, a couple of weeks ago a 16-year-old woman was killed in a car accident in the community. I did not know her personally but I am good friends with someone who knows her family so the experience has been the topic of our recent conversations.   

I believe that all people regardless of age or ability need to be given opportunities to process the death experiences that they encounter and prepare for their own.   

How do we best offer support to others as they process what it means to die? And how do we prepare for our own death?   

I got my official will and power of attorney papers written a few years ago. I also wrote my potential obituary and told my siblings that I wanted my cremated ashes to be put in a wooden box from Ten Thousand Villages that belonged to my mother and buried in the ground above my dad’s side of their tombstone. But there is more that needs to happen then these practical considerations.   

One night at the beginning of COVID, I was talking on the phone with my mom. She asked me if I thought it would be okay if she would go to sleep and not wake up? I asked her directly, “Do you mean die?” She said “Yes.” I simply told her that I would miss her and her family would miss her but I said I thought it would be okay.    

We both knew she was going to heaven although we did not talk specifically about Jesus. Now, she has severe dementia and she often calls out “Jesus, Jesus.” I know that she is ready to meet Jesus face to face. I know that she is ready to die. I do not understand why she cannot die nor do I know when or how it will occur.   

I am left with even more questions. What difference does Jesus make in my life? In John 10:10, Jesus tells us: “I have come that you may have life and have it to the fullest.” Does my relationship with Jesus bring me direction for my life and meaning? Do I go to church because of the people I know will be there; is it a ritual where I will sing some songs, listen to the sermon and pray along with the worship leader; or do I believe in him at all?    

Each person needs to answer these questions personally for themself. Although the core of Christianity depends on the life and work of Jesus, the way it is expressed and carried out in our lives looks different for each person.  

Life, death and life. It boils down to these three realities. Yet, questions remain: where are we on the journey and how do we be with Jesus and others in the time and space we are given? 

Melody Steinman with her mother. (Supplied photo)

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